Keeping warm, whatever the price, whatever the weather

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I am beginning to think that winter is never going to end. By now we should have mild March breezes, sunshine and showers – and daffodils. But instead we’re facing icy winds from the East and 10-foot snowdrifts.

But of course, that’s the British weather. With all our technology, we can just about predict it, but we certainly can’t control it.

At the end of a long cold winter, we are also facing steeply-rising energy prices. The Office for Budget Responsibility this week predicted a 7% rise in energy costs this year, and a 3% rise next year. Continue reading “Keeping warm, whatever the price, whatever the weather”

Will there be Warm Homes, Healthy People this winter?

It’s the last day of August, and frankly I’m clinging to the hope that this pretty miserable summer will give us at least a few warm days this September before it’s done. So I really don’t want to be thinking about the cold dark days of winter which may be just a couple of months away.

But actually my working days at the moment are spent thinking about nothing else. For many older people, the onset of winter is not a good time, especially if your home is cold and poorly insulated or you cannot afford ever increasing fuel bills.

Over the last ten years, there have been around 26,700 additional deaths each winter, when compared to the other months of the year (ONS). The vast majority of these ‘excess winter deaths’ – more than ninety per cent – are among older people. There is also an associated increase in GP visits, hospital admissions and social care calls due to cold weather. This useful website gives a picture of the situation across England.

This ‘phenomenon’ (as the scientists call it – I prefer the term ‘disgrace’) has been well studied. We know, for example, that the primary risk factor is exposure to cold. And we know that 40 per cent of deaths are due to cardiovascular problems – heart attacks and strokes – and another 30 per cent to respiratory issues. Hypothermia is relatively rare, and influenza is generally only a significant factor when there is an epidemic. Continue reading “Will there be Warm Homes, Healthy People this winter?”