Tackling excess winter deaths

It is a national scandal that thousands of people, most of them elderly, die every winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes and succumb to the cold weather as a result.

In the most recent winter where figures are available, 45,000 people died unnecessarily because of the cold.

We know from the evidence across Europe that more people are dying unnecessarily in our country. Scandinavian countries all have significantly lower rates of avoidable winter deaths than the UK despite contending with far colder winters. This is because they have made keeping people warm a priority.

Coordinating the Government’s health policies is key to this. Flu is a big factor in excess winter deaths and it is vitally important that government has a flu plan in place as soon as possible every year. This year it was concerning that the annual flu strategy was published two months later than last year.

Cold homes cause excess winter deaths. The Green Deal programme has expired and the Energy Company Obligation will expire next year. No timeline has been set for its replacement and the Government has not brought forward a plan to encourage home insulation.

I have called on the Government to introduce a national strategy to tackle excess winter deaths:

* A clear plan for reducing avoidable winter deaths, with regular assessment to reviews the plan’s success.

* An independent assessment of what additional policies would help reduce avoidable winter deaths.

* A cross-departmental working group to co-ordinate currently policy efforts.

It is clear from the action taken in Barnsley that co-ordination between organisations is key to effective action to tackle excess winter deaths. Government now needs to take the some approach and introduce a cross-departmental strategy which takes account of all the factors contributing to excess winter deaths.

In addition to hosting a debate in the House of Commons and writing to the Prime Minister about avoidable winter deaths, I have also started a petition on the Parliamentary website calling for a national strategy to tackle excess winter deaths. You can add your signature here.

With a clear and ambitious strategy we can prevent these people from dying unnecessarily.

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