Experts from across the region came together last week in a round-table hosted by Mayor Dan Jarvis, to begin crucial work on tackling the number of excess winter deaths in our region.
Every year, vulnerable and elderly people die due to the cold weather, principally from respiratory diseases and hypothermia, as they cannot afford to heat their homes.
It is estimated that there were 50,100 excess winter deaths across England and Wales in the 2017 to 2018 winter period – an increase from 34,300 in the previous 16/17 winter, and an increase from 24, 580 the year before that. In South Yorkshire there were 1,100 excess winter deaths in 2016/17
Dan Jarvis, Mayor of the Sheffield City Region said: “It may seem strange to be talking about winter deaths in the summer. But it is a national scandal that thousands of people, most of them elderly, die every winter because they cannot afford to heat their homes and succumb to the cold weather as a result. We cannot wait for the cold weather to hit before tackling this issue.
“We know from the evidence across Europe that more people are dying unnecessarily in our country. Scandinavian countries all have significantly lower rates of avoidable winter deaths than the UK despite contending with far colder winters. This is because they have made keeping people warm a priority.
“Co-ordination between organisations is key to effective action. We must work together to ensure that future cold winters do not have the same devastating consequences for our relatives, friends and neighbours.
“That’s why I’m committed to working with the Directors of Public Health, the NHS and partners to ensure that we are prepared for next winter – and winters after that.”
The meeting was attended by delegates including Julia Burrows, Barnsley Director of Public Health; Rupert Suckling, Doncaster Director of Public Health; Greg Fell, Sheffield Director of Public Health; Lesley Smith, Deputy Lead for the South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw Integrated Care System; Maria Wardrobe, Director of Communications and External Relations at the National Energy Action; Sally Eapen-Simon, Screening and Immunisation Lead at Public Health England in Yorkshire & Humber; Janet Sharpe, Director of Housing at Sheffield City Council, Teresa Roche, Director of Public Health, Rotherham, Jill Jones, Rotherham Borough Council, Julie Tolhurst, Public Health Principal for Barnsley Council, Karen Horrocks, Doncaster Council.
The aim of the session, held at the Mayoral Combined Authority offices in Broad Street West, Sheffield, was to understand what activity is already taking place; the challenges councils, the NHS, Public Health, and the third sector organisations are facing, and identify where improvements can be made through sharing learning and best practice.
Maria Wardrobe, Director of Communications and External Relations, NEA, said: “On behalf of NEA, the UK fuel poverty charity I was delighted to be asked to participate in the panel and applaud the Mayor’s efforts to bring all of the key player together to tackle excess winter deaths. We estimate that over 15 years the cost to the NHS of treating cold related admissions in England and Wales is around £22 billion. These funds could be channelled into programmes that improve the energy efficiency of people’s homes so the vulnerable don’t fall prey to cold related illnesses which can be fatal.”
Tackling excess winter deaths is a key priority for Mayor Jarvis. He has previously raised the issue at Prime Minister’s Questions; led an Adjournment Debate in Parliament and called on the Government to take action. He is now the first of the UK’s Metro Mayors to be taking decisive action to tackle the issue.
Mayor Jarvis added: “How a society cares for the elderly and most vulnerable is an important yardstick by which we should be judged.
“As Mayor and also as MP, I will continue my campaign until the Government takes the action needed to end this quiet crisis.”