Official figures from the Office of National Statistics today demonstrate the deadly impact that cold weather can have, especially on older people during winter, last year, there were an estimated 25,700 excess deaths mostly linked to circulatory and respiratory diseases.
Following a few basic principles can make a big difference to the safety and wellbeing of those at risk.
Measures such as:
checking on them to make sure they are safe and well;
making sure they’re warm enough, especially at night; and
stocking up on food and medicines.
Public Health Minister Anne Milton said:
“Despite the harsh conditions during December 2010, excess winter deaths in England and Wales remained virtually unchanged from the previous winter but there is no room for complacency. We want to ensure that the NHS and the public are as well prepared this year and that we reduce this figure further.
“We are working across Government on our cold weather plans. They are supported by our Warm Homes Healthy People Fund of at least Ã‚Â£30m which was announced in the Cold Weather Plan for England. They are also supported by our pledge to retain the winter fuel allowance, which will help people to keep homes warm.
“The elderly, and those who are ill, are particularly vulnerable during cold weather. We all have a role to play in remembering the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk especially at this time of year”.
There is always more pressure on the NHS at this time of year and this year will be no different. It deals with rises in slips, trips and falls, increases in admissions due to flu and other health problems associated with the colder weather and the winter vomiting bug noro-virus.
The routine preparations have seen each local area put escalation procedures in place for:
greater bed capacity at peak times;
better transfers of patients between ambulance and hospital;
heightened operational readiness; and
enhanced out of hours arrangements.
Commenting on the specific challenges the NHS faces at this time of year Health Minister Anne Milton said
“Every year, there is extra pressure on NHS services over the winter months. That’s why we’ve asked the NHS to put plans in place to help reduce the risks of a surge in demand.
“Across the country, our staff are already working hard and doing great work to respond to this extra demand and I am very grateful for all their continued efforts.
“Always dial ‘999’ in an emergency. But if you do not have an emergency, it may be more appropriate to contact your GP, NHS Direct (or NHS 111 where currently available) or your pharmacy.”
The Department of Health also produces leaflets and posters giving advice on how to keep warm and well available for download for NHS and local organisations.