Charity issues warning over cold weather deaths as 'Polar Vortex' hits UK

Thousands of people are dying needlessly each year in the UK as the country has the second-worst rate of excess winter deaths in Europe, a study found.

Only Ireland has a higher proportion of people dying due to cold weather than the UK, compared with the rest of the continent.

According to the new analysis, published on Friday, almost 168,000 excess winter deaths were recorded in Britain in the last five years.

It comes after recent Government statistics revealed the number of people sleeping rough in England increased last autumn for the seventh year in a row.

And Brits are braced for the “coldest week in five years” with heavy snow and severe frost forecast to sweep the country next week.

The report, by National Energy Action and climate change charity E3G, looked at fatality numbers between December and March compared with the four months before and after, across 30 countries over five winters.

Researchers found the UK experiences 32,000 deaths between early December and March that are in excess of mortality rates across the rest of the year.

And a total of 167,690 excess winter deaths were recorded between winters 2011/12 and 2016/17.

Of these, 30 per cent of deaths were attributable to cold housing conditions, 21 per cent were attributable to the coldest quarter of homes in Britain and 10 per cent to fuel poverty.

Fuel poverty means when low incomes and high, or relatively high, energy bills combine to make a warm home unaffordable.

The report also follows data that showed rough sleeping in England increased for the seventh consecutive year.

Government statistics published in January revealed an estimated 4,751 people slept on the streets in autumn 2017, up 15 per cent on the same period in 2016.

London represented 24 per cent of the total rough sleepers in England during that time.

Charities said the figure only reflected a portion of people sleeping rough.

The study initially put the UK sixth-worst in Europe, but researchers said that results were skewed in favour of warmer countries.

Authors said that results failed to take into account cold weather lasting beyond the winter months in cooler countries.

After adjusting for this, researchers found the UK is the second-worst country for winter deaths.

Pedro Guertler, of E3G, who co-authored the research, said the winter death figures were not only a tragedy but a “national embarrassment”. 

“This epidemic is entirely preventable and E3G and NEA are calling on the UK Government to reinstate public capital investment in home energy efficiency to fix the cold homes crisis,” he said. 

“As well as ending needless suffering and premature deaths, it would also address a wide range of national infrastructure priorities.”

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