Use heating this winter: Government
Friday 25th October 2013, 12:11AM BST.
The Government is urging people to use their heating this winter as part of a plan to prevent some of the thousands of avoidable deaths that occur each year.
The Cold Weather Plan for England says people should keep their homes warm, with living room temperatures of 21°C (70°F) and bedrooms and the rest of the house heated to 18°C (65°F).
It says temperatures above this “may waste money” but below this “may risk your health”.
If people are unable to afford to heat all their rooms, they should heat their living room during the day and bedrooms just before going to bed.
The plan was published by Public Health England (PHE) in collaboration with the Department of Health, NHS England and the Local Government Association (LGA).
It said there are “too many avoidable deaths each winter”, with just over 24,000 each year in England and Wales.
The “causes are complex, interlinked with fuel poverty, poor housing and health inequalities, as well as circulating infectious diseases, particularly flu and norovirus, and the extent of snow and ice,” it added.
As part of its advice to the public, the report says people who are eligible for their flu jab should get one, homes should be heated and measures taken to reduce heat waste, such as fitting draught-proofing to seal any gaps around windows and doors.
It also mentions loft insulation, keeping curtains closed to keep in heat and making sure radiators are not obstructed by furniture or curtains.
Furthermore, people should look after themselves with plenty of hot food and drinks, five portions a day of fruit and veg, and wearing layers.
Dr Paul Cosford, director for health protection and medical director at PHE, said: “In colder weather, keeping yourself warm is essential to staying healthy, especially for the very young, older people or those with a chronic condition such as heart disease and asthma.
“There are a range of health problems associated with cold housing and winter weather, but in particular, a cold indoor or outdoor environment can make heart and respiratory problems worse, and can be fatal.
“This is why the Cold Weather Plan sets out a series of actions that health and social care organisations, voluntary groups, and individuals can take and plan for cold temperatures to help reduce cold-related illnesses and deaths.”
Public health minister Jane Ellison said: “The elderly and those with long-term illnesses are particularly at risk during the winter months so it’s crucial that people stay warm and that we all find time to check in on those who may be vulnerable.
“Young children, older people and at-risk groups are also vulnerable to flu which is why all two and three-year-olds and those over 65 are being offered the flu vaccine.
“It’s also vital that health services are ready to cope with the inevitable increase in pressure as temperatures drop, which is why I strongly encourage all frontline NHS staff to get their flu vaccine.
“We are also investing £500 million over the next two years to help ensure A&E departments are well prepared for winter.”
Age UK’s charity director, Caroline Abrahams, said: “Being cold is a huge health risk for older people so it is absolutely essential that older people stay warm during the winter months.
“But with fuel poverty blighting the lives of millions of households in the UK, many older people are feeling increasingly anxious about the rising cost of energy.
“Local Age UKs will be providing a range of services across the winter months and anyone with concerns can also call Age UK Advice free on 0800 169 65 65.
“But longer-term, the Government must show it has a clear long-term plan to make low income homes more energy efficient.”