Cold homes cost the NHS in England £1.36bn every year in hospital and primary care admissions due to their “devastating impact” on older people’s health, a new report by Age UK shows.
The cost of cold report claims cold homes are a “major contributing factor” to excess winter deaths.
People living in the coldest homes are three times as likely to die from a cold-related illness compared to those in warmer homes.
It is said the prevalence of poorly insulated homes coupled with sharp increases in energy prices over recent years has “exacerbated” the UK’s growing fuel poverty problem, forcing many older people to cut back on their heating in a bid to control costs.
Furthermore, public awareness of the 27,000 excess winter deaths that occur each year is “low”, it is claimed.
New findings by Age UK show two-fifths of people see hypothermia as the biggest threat to older people’s health in winter despite it accounting for only 1 in 100 excess winter deaths. The most common risk factor is cardiovascular diseases – strokes caused by blood-clotting or heart attacks – which account for 40% of excess winter deaths.
Michelle Mitchell, charity director general at Age UK said 'It’s an absolute scandal that tens of thousands of older people will become ill or die this winter because they are unable to keep warm. Not only is this resulting in an incalculable human cost, but the NHS is spending more than a billion pounds on treating the casualties of cold every year.
'At the root of the problem are badly insulated homes, which together with cripplingly high energy prices, are leaving millions of older people having to choose between staying warm and energy bills they can afford.”
Age UK has called upon the government to make excess winter deaths a national health priority to drive funding into preventative services.