Cold Housing a “Public Health Emergency”

Cold Winter

Every health trust is spending around £27,000 a day treating patients with health problems caused by living in cold housing, a charity said.

According to the fuel poverty charity, National Energy Action (NEA), cold homes are becoming a “public health emergency” and the NHS is spending an estimated £1 billion a year treating preventable cold-related issues.

Over the last 4 years, 117,000 people have died needlessly due to the cold, something which can be prevented and a number that can be reduced.

Jenny Saunders, chief executive of NEA, said: "Cold homes are a public health emergency and are dramatically reducing life chances for vulnerable people.

"As well as it being completely unacceptable that in the 21st century people are still becoming ill and dying needlessly because they live in cold homes, treating health-related conditions is also placing a shocking strain on the public purse.

"Sweden and Norway can manage to avoid these costs and prevent thousands of extra people being admitted to hospital each winter because their residents live in housing which is efficient to heat, despite colder temperatures and higher energy prices.

"Given we know the causes and the best cure, we can't just shrug our shoulders and accept cold-related illness and death as inevitable. It isn't."

There is clear evidence that living in poor housing, such as with damp and mould, can lead to an increased risk of illness, including the likes of cardiovascular disease and respiratory problems.

Figures released November 2015 showed there were around 43,900 excess deaths in England and Wales during the winter of 2014 – the highest number since 1999.

Jenny Saunders also said: "As well as more local action, it is clear we also need the Government to significantly increase investment in national programmes to help vulnerable and sick individuals improve insulation or fix their heating.

"Refocusing current resources on low-income households will help but ultimately existing national programmes remain woefully inadequate."

A Government spokeswoman said: "This Government is serious about helping vulnerable people heat their homes - we give more than 12 million pensioners up to £300 every winter and help the poorest by cutting £140 off their energy bills.

"But we know there is more to do, which is why we are requiring energy companies to help us make one million homes warmer by 2020."

Andrew Sheldon, Founder and Managing Director of Ice Energy said: “These facts are just heartbreaking, knowing that there are still that many people feeling the effects of the cold each year. This is where social housing comes in; those that see this and act are those that are preparing for the future, helping people not having to choose between shelter or heating, but instead have both.

“With ground source heat pumps, the energy bills for heating can be reduced dramatically, allowing the comfort of a nice warm home, without having to worry about constant increases and decreases in oil and gas prices, and allowing the occupant piece of mind, knowing they can stay warm during the cold winter months.”