THE total number of winter deaths due to cold weather has increased in Basingstoke and across the region, according to new figures.

The new Office for National Statistics (ONS) stats reveal that in Basingstoke and Deane, there were 80 ‘excess winter deaths’ in 2015/16, up 10 from 70 in 2014/15.

‘Excess winter deaths’ are defined as deaths due to the cold weather which are deemed to have been preventable.

One of the more alarming trends that the figures revealed was the impact that was on older people in the UK. In the south east of England, of the 5,500 people whose death was due to the cold weather in 2016/17, 5,200 of those were aged above 65 years.

Age UK’s charity director, Caroline Abrahams, said: “This dramatic jump in excess winter deaths in England is a terrible rebuke to anyone who thought it was ‘job done’ when it comes to keeping older people safe and sound through the winter. Remember that every one of these deaths was, by definition, preventable.

“Without further research it is impossible to nail down cause and effect but it is notable that last winter was not especially severe and that the statistics remained stable in Wales.

“A less than fully effective flu vaccine is likely to be one culprit, but it is also true that many older people live in poorly insulated homes and worry about turning up the heating during the cold months, increasing their risk of ill health.

“In addition, we know the NHS and social care are under unprecedented strain and the net result is that poorly older people, often living alone, are not always getting the effective, timely help they need to nip emerging health problems in the bud.

“We cannot run the risk of these figures getting even worse next year so the Government must take urgent action to address the underlying causes.”

The issue is alluded to in the ONS report in which cold temperatures are associated with increased blood pressure and a lower immune system which puts older and vulnerable people most at risk with deaths relating to circulatory problems that were the main cause of the excess winter deaths.

Nationally, the figure of excess winter deaths has risen considerably, increasing by almost 10,000, from 24,580 in 2015/16 to 34,300 in the 2016/17 provisional figures.

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