Pensioner winter deaths News release..

17.11.2000

PENSIONER WINTER DEATHS FIGURES HIT RECORD HIGH UNDER LABOUR - DAVEY

New statistics obtained by the Liberal Democrats show that the winter death toll of pensioners last year rose faster in London than anywhere else in the country.

The figures, prepared by the Office for National Statistics, measure "excess winter deaths", and attempt to show the extent to which cold winter weather and illness lead to more deaths in he winter than in the Summer. Whilst some much colder countries (such as Finland) do not see much increase in death rates during the Winter, Britain has a history of high rates of Winter deaths.

The new figures for 1999/2000 show that nationwide there were nearly 55,000 excess winter deaths, almost all of which were among pensioners. This is up around 6% on the previous year and is the highest figure since the mid-1970s.

The figure for the London region is 6,030 an increase of over 22% on the previous Winter, and the fastest rise for any region. Out of the 6,030 "excess" deaths in London, 2,160 were pensioners over the age of 85 and another 1,690 were aged 75-84.

Commenting, Edward Davey MP, Liberal Democrat said:

"The Government's neglect of pensioners in the first years of this Parliament is now becoming shamefully evident.

"The Government cannot pretend that its winter fuel payments scheme has answered this problem because these deaths occurred at a time when pensioners were already receiving winter payments of 100."

"Not only has pensioner poverty risen but these new figures show that pensioner deaths rose to shocking levels. The oldest pensioners are particularly vulnerable in the winter and yet the Government has consistently refused our calls for a substantial increase in pensions for older pensioners. The Government should hang its head in shame at these figures."

Notes

1. The "Regional Social Exclusion Indicators" report produced by the House of Commons Library shows the number of low income pensioners in the Borough increasing from 9000 to 9600. Between 27,00-30,000 pensioners live in the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames at any one time. This figure was supplied by Age Concern.

2. Excess Winter Deaths are defined as the difference between the number of deaths during the four winter months (December to March) and the average number of deaths during the preceding autumn (August to November) and the following summer (April to July).

3. The number of Excess Winter Deaths is higher in England, Wales and Scotland than in European countries that have colder climates. A study in September 2000 British Medical Journal for example showed that the UK had higher winter deaths than Finland. An earlier study revealed that the UK had a higher EWD rate than Sweden, Norway & the Switzerland.

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