Surviving Winter: Stats reveal thousands of extra deaths in East of England last winter
PUBLISHED: 06:25 27 November 2015 | UPDATED: 10:47 27 November 2015
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Official figures show a surge in winter deaths among the elderly last year.
Don’t forget your jab
GP practices in Norfolk are urging patients to help themselves stay well this winter by booking in for a free NHS flu vaccination.
People with serious health conditions, adults over 65, some carers, pregnant women and healthy children between the age of 2 and 4 all qualify for a free jab.
Jon Cox, consultant from Public Health Norfolk, said: “As we age our immune systems become less effective, so it is important that patients over 65 take advantage of the flu jab.
“It’s also important that pregnant mums, people with long-term health problems and young children have the vaccine because they are more vulnerable to serious illness if they catch flu. The vaccine is the best possible protection. Even if you have had the vaccination before, it is important that you get the jab every winter because the type of virus in circulation changes every year.”
While the increase is being blamed on less-than-effective flu vaccine, those who live in cold homes are more vulnerable to the virus.
Excess winter deaths jumped by 151pc, official figures show, with the majority of deaths among those aged 75 or over.
Figures released by the Office for National Statistics said there were 43,900 excess winter deaths in England and Wales between December 2014 and March 2015. Some 4,900 of them were in East Anglia.
With a colder than average winter forecast, the elderly are being urged to keep their homes at 18C and ensure they get their free flu jabs.
GPs say one of the best ways to stay well is to stay warm over the winter. But many elderly people in parts of East Anglia are in fuel poverty. Campaigners say some even face a dilemma between heating or eating.
Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: “Cold homes have life and death consequences for older people and we should be deeply ashamed of that in an affluent country like ours.”
The figures buck a trend of decreasing winter mortality. A record low number of deaths in 2013/14 - 17,460 - corresponded with a mild winter where the average temperature was 6.2C. Last winter’s average was 4.8C.
Advance forecasts warn of a prolonged cold snap over Christmas and New Year. The EDP-backed Surviving Winter appeal is expecting requests for assistance to increase this year.
The campaign, run by Age UK and the Norfolk Community Foundation, helps vulnerable households pay their bills.
There are a number of ways that you can give to help them: To make an online donation, click here.
To request help from the appeal, call Age UK Norfolk on 0300 500 1217.