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Britain’s Shame: 40,000 elderly people die cold and hungry every year

Over 40,000 pensioners die every year because they can't afford to heat or eat. But our government continues to turn a blind eye

MORE than 40,000 British pensioners die every winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes or eat well due to Tory austerity.

Official figures revealed yesterday that there were an estimated 43,900 excess winter deaths among pensioners in England and Wales in 2014/15, the most recent data available.

This winter is expected to be no different — if not worse.

Most cold-related deaths last winter were of people aged 75 and over, accounting for an estimated 36,300 excess winter death.

The management body of the National Health Service NHS England is urging elderly people “to set their thermostat to no lower than 18°C, wrap up warm, and consume hot meals and drinks to keep their energy up” — without telling them how to find the money to do so.

Many countries which suffer far more severe winters than Britain — such as Sweden and Norway — have social support systems which protect elderly people from the danger of cold-related death.

Yet in Britain the number of cold-related deaths last year was the highest since 1999-2000, with 27 per cent more people dying in the winter months compared with the rest of the year.

The response of the cash-strapped NHS yesterday was to tell elderly people to “keep warm.”

Last week, MPs warned that accident and emergency departments could face their toughest winter yet.

The Commons health committee said this winter could be “substantially more difficult” than last, with increasing demand for services, health service trusts suffering due to staff shortages and a widespread inability to move out patients who are medically fit to be discharged.

It said that while in the past NHS trusts would experience their most intense problems in the winter and would enjoy a respite in the summer, now “pressures are high year round and just reach a more intense peak during the winter.”

But National Pensioners Convention secretary Dot Gibson said privatised, profiteering energy companies should share the blame.

She told the Morning Star: “Last winter, over 43,900 older people died from cold-related illnesses. Energy bills continue to rise and prolonged cold spells mean that older people — and other families with low incomes — are struggling to heat their homes.

“The previous government may have tried to hide the problem by massaging the figures, but the truth is more and more people in Britain are finding that a warm home is becoming a luxury they simply cannot afford.

“The government needs to urgently set out how it intends to tackle the excessive profits of the big six energy companies, how it can improve the energy efficiency of Britain’s housing stock and how it can help people to pay their bills.”

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