Opinion: Reduce winter deaths with manifesto

Janet Shapiro (HPAG), wants government to comply with the Pensioners' Manifesto.

Janet Shapiro (HPAG), wants government to comply with the Pensioners' Manifesto. - Credit: Archant

Every November the Office of National Statistics (ONS) announces the number of excess winter deaths (EWD) for the previous winter. See ons.gov.uk

In the 2015-2016 winter period for England and Wales the estimated number of excess winter deaths (EWD) was nearly 25,000. But for the 2017-2018 winter period, the EWD was 50,100, higher than reported since 1975-1976 when the total had peaked at 58,100.

On November 27 it was announced that for the winter 2018-2019 the number of excess winter deaths was 23,200. This is too many older people dying deaths from cold related illnesses.

The ONS reports that the excess winter deaths are mostly for those aged over 65, mainly from respiratory diseases. Women aged over 85 predominate. Also the EWD for England and Wales exceed numbers reported for countries that suffer from more severely cold winters. The Office of National Statistics cannot specify causes for these excess deaths. We can only guess that contributing factors are fuel poverty, poorly insulated homes and an underfunded NHS struggling to cope with winter illnesses.

Each year the National Pensioners Convention organise protests all over the UK on the day the EWD is announced to draw attention to the figures.

On November 27 London pensioners walked behind a pretend coffin displaying the EWD from Trafalgar Square to Downing Street. The chant was 'Cold Homes Kill'.

The Hornsey Pensioners Action Group had its regular monthly meeting on November 20. The topic for the meeting was Digital Exclusion and addressed how older people could be helped to access the fast growing benefits of information technology. We also had information about the new Haringey Reach and Connect service set up to give support to those over 50. Our website hornseypag.org.uk gives a full report.

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In the past, Hornsey PAG have held a hustings meeting for general election candidates, but given the short notice before December 12 we invited candidates for Hornsey and Wood Green Constituency to join us at the end of our November meeting.

We were able to welcome four candidates; Helen Spiby-Vann, Christian Peoples Alliance; Jarelle Francis, Green Party; Catherine West, Labour Party and Dawn Barnes, Liberal Democrat.

Each candidate was given a copy of the Pensioners' Manifesto, published by the NPC. This contains six demands. We note that should a government be elected that complied with the manifesto demands we should expect lower EWD numbers in the future. The demands include ending pensioner poverty and providing suitable homes, plus adequate funding and staffing for the NHS and a National Care Service. Meanwhile we carry on campaigning, and hope that our protests get proper attention in the media.