Calls for energy bills to be cut intensified last night after it emerged that the number of people dying of hypothermia has almost doubled in the past five years.
A total of 260 people across all age groups died from the condition in 2010-11 after suffering from low body temperatures, up from 135 in 2006-7.
Meanwhile, hospital admissions for over-60s diagnosed with hypothermia rose by 120 per cent in the same period, up from 633 five years ago to 1,396 in the last year.
The dramatic rise in fatalities and cases of the illness – which occurs when body temperature drops from the usual 37C to 35C – came in the same period that gas bills rose by 40 per cent, offering further strength to the "End the Big Six Energy Fix" campaign launched in conjunction with The Independent last week. At least 3 million pensioners are now estimated to live in fuel poverty. Michelle Mitchell, charity director of Age UK, demanded Government action to stem the continual increases in energy costs, which her charity found last month had led to half of pensioners turning their heating down to save money, even when they feel really cold.
"We like to think of ourselves as a civilised society which protects the most vulnerable," she told the Daily Mail. "The fact that there are still older people who are suffering and dying of hypothermia is deeply shocking."