Covid-19 has caused a huge economic impact on households, with unemployment rates increasing. More households are struggling with bills than usual, meaning many are likely to avoid heating their homes in order to stay afloat. It is expected that this will impact the ‘Excess Winter Deaths’ (EWD) rate for this winter, due to the illnesses that are linked to living in a cold home.
EWDs are the difference between the average daily deaths in the winter months (December to March) compared to the rest of the year. Living in a cold home can cause and exacerbate respiratory illnesses, making sufferers of these illnesses more susceptible to Covid-19.
Switched On Portsmouth offer a wide range of free energy saving schemes to support households to stay warm and well in their homes. It is especially important that we reach as many homes as possible this winter to help reduce the EWD rate this year.
For perspective in December 2017 to March 2018 50,100 people died from EWD’s in England and Wales, this is only nine thousand less than the UK’s covid death rate which spans across the majority of 2020.
1) The EWD figures:
|England & Wales EWD’s||Portsmouth EWD’s||High or lower?||
2019 to 2020
|28,300||Not published yet||19.6% higher than winter 2018 to 2019||Respiratory diseases continued to be the leading cause of excess winter deaths that occurred in 2019 to 2020. (Covid-19 deaths excluded from this number)|
|2018 to 2019||23,200||90||The excess winter mortality index in England in 2018 to 2019 was statistically significantly lower than the 2016 to 2017 and 2017 to 2018 winters||Respiratory diseases continued to be the leading cause of excess winter deaths which occurred in 2018 to 2019.|
|2017 to 2018||50,100||180||The number of excess winter deaths in 2017 to 2018 was the highest recorded since winter 1975 to 1976||
Over one-third (34.7%) of all excess winter deaths were caused by respiratory diseases.
‘Beast from the East’ period of extremely cold temperatures.
2) Causes of EWD’s
Top 3 ’causes of death’ on death certificates recorded are:
- Respiratory conditions (chronic lower respiratory diseases & pneumonia most common)
- Circulatory diseases
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
3) Why are cold temperatures dangerous?
- Cold temperatures:
- Raise your blood pressure and can put you at increased risk of a stroke or heart attack.
- Increase risk of blood clots
- Supresses your immune system making you more vulnerable to illnesses
- Reducing your lungs effectiveness at fighting viruses
- Can have negative impacts on your mental health putting you under strain and stress of fuel bills
4) COVID-19 & Cold homes
- COVID-19 is a respiratory condition and living in a cold and/or damp home can cause respiratory problems
- Living in a warm home improves your chances at fighting off viruses
- Living in a warm home improves the recovery process from illnesses
- More people will be struggling financially due to covid so more people will be struggling to afford to heat their home
- Social isolation and medical health issues can be heighten with lockdown and cold homes
5) Why does all this matter?
- The top two causes of EWD’s are directly related to living in a cold home and are preventable.
- ‘Why treat people and send them back to the conditions that made them sick?‘ We need to tackle the root causes of illnesses and prevent them manifesting rather than treating symptoms.
- We need to reduce the pressure on medical resources so that in times of global crisis/pandemic resources are not as strained. Improving people’s homes also has many benefits to the individuals comfort, happiness and to the environment.
- We need to emphasise the connection to warm homes and staying healthy.
6) What help is available to Portsmouth, Gosport & Havant residents (eligibility applies):
- Free broken boiler replacement scheme for owner occupiers
- Free First time gas central heating for those using expensive electric heating
- Free home energy visit/appointment- free small energy savings measures, advice and referrals onto further support
- A supply of temporary heating and winter warmth packs for people in emergency situations
- And more! Please visit our website or contact us for more info.
This quote from an Independence Support Assistant at Portsmouth Carers Centre shows the difference one referral can make:
‘Over the years I’ve visited her house it was freezing in the winter and she’d go to bed very early as it was the only way to stay warm. Since the referral to LEAP they have installed draught excluders and energy saving bulbs, advised on reducing energy bills and how to switch over from a pre-paid to a standard meter. As a result of all this support her home is now much warmer and she is much happier as no longer stressed about the cost of heating the property. For the first time in years she can manage her energy costs, is no longer in debt and her health has been much better too’
7) What to take away
1) If you have a health condition:
Please be aware if you have a long-term health condition that cold temperatures can be a danger to your health. Please use the support on offer to keep warm this winter. If you suffer from an existing health condition you are eligible for our free energy support.
2) If you are a local service:
Let’s work together to keep households warm & healthy: we need to spread awareness of the support available to reduce respiratory and circulatory conditions to prevent excess winter deaths. These deaths are preventable if we take action.
3) If you work in public health:
If you want to discuss how our services can help each other then please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Public Health England: Cold weather and COVID-19 Guidance
- National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE): ‘Excess winter deaths and illness and the health risks associated with cold homes’ Guidance
by Louise Hyde