The cost of heating could be partly responsible for higher-than-average death rates recorded in recent weeks, a public health expert said.
In the first three weeks of January there were 45,037 registered deaths in England and Wales – 25 per cent higher than the average of the past five years. Most of the deaths are among the over 75s. Ten thousand more people in this age group died in the three weeks to 23 January than in the same period last year. Public health experts believe flu is the likely cause of the increase, but there are also concerns pressures on the NHS and cold homes could be contributing.
Dr John Middleton of the Faculty of Public Health said, “H3N2 [flu strain] does particularly impact on older people”. “The other major causes of winter excess deaths are housing conditions and heating – affordable warmth. What we’ve seen in terms of welfare cuts and the rising cost of heating homes could also be an important factor.
“It seems to me the timing [of the increase] would suggest it would be important to look into health and social care costs and provision.”Reuse content