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PHE publishes plan to tackle winter deaths

The Cold Weather Plan for England has now been published in an effort to reduce the number of winter deaths each year. The plan was developed by Public Health England (PHE), in partnership with the DH, NHS England and the Local Government Association (LGA).

Each year there are 24,000 ‘excess’ winter deaths due to cold weather, and many are preventable.

The plan focuses on long-term planning, winter action and preparedness, and includes flu vaccination for at-risk groups, ensuring insulation is in place and heating systems are routinely checked.

Winter health advice will be published on Twitter, the Met Office will trigger cold weather alerts and a winter health watch website will launch in November.

Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection & medical director at PHE, said: “In colder weather, keeping yourself warm is essential to staying healthy, especially for the very young, older people or those with a chronic condition such as heart disease and asthma. There are a range of health problems associated with cold housing and winter weather, but in particular, a cold indoor or outdoor environment can make heart and respiratory problems worse, and can be fatal.

“This is why the Cold Weather Plan sets out a series of actions that health and social care organisations, voluntary groups, and individuals can take and plan for cold temperatures to help reduce cold-related illnesses and deaths.”

Public health minister Jane Ellison MP said: “The elderly and those with long term illnesses are particularly at risk during the winter months so it’s crucial that people stay warm and that we all find time to check in on those who may be vulnerable. Young children, older people and at-risk groups are also vulnerable to flu which is why all two and three year olds and those over 65 are being offered the flu vaccine.”

Cllr Katie Hall, chair of the LGA’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said: “On average, 24,000 deaths occur in England per year as a result of the cold temperatures. Most are aged over 75, and their deaths could have been avoided with better preparation for cold weather.

“As the cold weather sets in we need everyone in our communities to be on the look-out for signs that something might be wrong. Council teams will be on standby to help with everything from carrying out emergency household repairs like defrosting pipes and fixing frozen boilers to delivering hot meals and portable heaters, and will be checking in on elderly and vulnerable residents to make sure they are okay.”

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