Action needed to stop deaths from cold

URGENT action is needed today to prevent hundreds of people dying in Suffolk because of the cold this winter, it has been claimed.Today, as temperatures dipped overnight to -2C (28F) the Highways Agency has warned drivers of increasingly perilous road conditions and a weather expert predicted more cold days to come, it emerged that many more people die during the four winter months than in spring or autumn, with the majority of victims being elderly people.

URGENT action is needed today to prevent hundreds of people dying in Suffolk because of the cold this winter, it has been claimed.

Today, as temperatures dipped overnight to -2C (28F) the Highways Agency has warned drivers of increasingly perilous road conditions and a weather expert predicted more cold days to come, it emerged that many more people die during the four winter months than in spring or autumn, with the majority of victims being elderly people.

In 2005/6, the last recorded year, 350 more people died during the winter months than either the summer or autumn, down from 440 in 2004/5 and up from 270 in 2003/4.

West Suffolk MP Richard Spring said he was shocked at the high numbers of people dying in the winter.

He said: “I'm very concerned about the situation in Suffolk and elderly people being vulnerable.

“There are fewer bed spaces outside of their homes in hospitals or care homes for people in Suffolk which is causing the increase in excess winter deaths.

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“What is going on in Suffolk is absolutely appalling.”

Daphne Savage, chief executive of Age Concern Suffolk, said about 90 per cent of the extra deaths during the cold months of December to March were of people over 65 with many of them dying from heart attacks, strokes, and bronchial disease.

She added: “More needs to be done for older people during the winter months so that they can heat their homes adequately without worrying about the cost.

"And older people need to take extra care when it is cold. We urge older people to make sure that their home is heated properly, to eat well and to get the flu jab this winter.”

Dr Peter Bradley, director of public health at Suffolk Primary Care Trust, said: “Excess winter deaths are a concern and we know it is important to prevent as many as possible.

“We work effectively to combat excess winter deaths by preventing flu and pneumonia through vaccination campaigns, working with local authority partners to promote health promotion messages - especially to keep older people warm in winter - and by ensuring local healthcare teams provide specific support to vulnerable elderly people.”

Older people worried about large heating bills should call Age Concern Suffolk on 01473 257039.

n. What do you think? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or email eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

The weather

KEN Blowers, The Evening Star's weather guru, warned elderly people to stay warm in the coming months and brace themselves for what could be a very cold winter.

He said: “I think it could be a cold winter, colder then usual.

“If the weather does turn cold it will probably happen from December 1.”

Highways Agency warning

DRIVERS are today being alerted to the extra dangers of driving on Suffolk's roads during the winter months.

The Highways Agency has launched its annual campaign to promote safe driving this winter and is urging motorists to take extra care to stay safe.

Road safety minister Jim Fitzpatrick said: “The British winter is not just about ice and snow. As we have seen this year, heavy rain, strong winds and fog are as much a part of the British climate and they can make driving hazardous.

“So make sure you and your vehicle are ready for winter.”

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