Worrying figures reveal excess winter deaths in Dorset continue to increase

AS temperatures start to fall, concerns have been raised over the welfare of vulnerable households across Dorset, following a new government report which reveals there were 590 “excess winter deaths” in Dorset during 2016/17, partly caused by people living in cold homes.

Provisional statistics for last winter (2017/18) also show a significant rise in the number of excess winter deaths across the region, with 5,200 recorded in the South West.

Overall in the UK there has been an increase of 45%, the highest since 1975, which indicates the full figures for Dorset could be considerably higher when they are verified next year.

Excess winter deaths are defined as the difference between the number of deaths in the winter months (December to March) compared with the previous three months (August to November) and the following (April to July).

An important contributing factor to these deaths is the high number of people living in homes they can’t afford to adequately heat, particularly in rural parts of the country where properties tend to be older, poorly insulated and therefore harder to keep warm.

The report highlights the impact cold temperatures can have on people including increased blood pressure and lower immune systems. This puts older people particularly at risk with 90% of the deaths occurring in those aged 65 and over.

With more cold weather predicted OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, is sharing a free information guide with advice on keeping the house warm, applying for heating payment benefits, finding a local heating technician and essential phone numbers for anyone in need of further assistance.

The ‘Keeping Warm This Winter’ guide, which can be downloaded from the OFTEC website, also recommends:

  • Heating your main room to a least 21C and other regularly used rooms to at least 18C
  • Monitoring and adjusting timers on your heating controls as the weather changes – make sure you aren’t wasting money on heating when you are not in
  • Turning off radiators in rooms you are not using. For all other radiators, ensure items such as furniture are not blocking the heat from the rest of the room
  • Have your boiler serviced by a GasSafe (for mains gas) or OFTEC (for oil or solid fuel) registered technician. They will check the system is working correctly and efficiently, helping to avoid any breakdowns over winter.

Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC said: “The latest government statistics reveal the hidden crisis facing Dorset and it is deeply concerning that even in this day and age, the number of winter deaths continues to rise. For far too long this issue has not been given the attention it deserves and too many people are struggling on in silence.

“Many of us take keeping our houses warm for granted but for a large number of households it is a constant source of anxiety. It is important everyone is aware of the support available which is why we are sharing our winter guide.”

For more information and to download the free booklet, visit www.oftec.org

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