The death of 90-year-old Margaret Titchmarsh showed how cold weather can claim the lives of elderly people.
Former nurse Mrs Titchmarsh, who suffered from dementia, died from hypothermia after wandering away from her care home, in Halifax, West Yorkshire.
At the inquest into her death, Halifax coroner Roger Whittaker concluded her death was accidental but ‘contributed to by neglect’.
She was wearing only a thin summer dress, cardigan and slippers when she was found dead – on one of the coldest nights of the year in January 2007
Maria Wardrobe, of the charity National Energy Action, said: ‘Britain still has the highest number of excess winter deaths in northern Europe which is a national disgrace, and more needs to be done to tackle the problem of fuel poverty.
‘Those most at risk to the effects of cold weather must not have to make a choice over whether to heat their homes or end up ill and in debt to their energy supplier.’
Dave Timms, from Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Living in a cold, damp house can make heart disease and strokes more likely. It’s a disgrace that millions of vulnerable people in Britain live in homes lacking basic insulation.’
He said the Government’s Energy Bill, which is to be published next month, should include a programme to insulate all the nation’s homes.
Michelle Mitchell, director of the charity Age UK, said:’It’s still unacceptable that in this day and age tens of thousands more older people die in this country every winter from the effects of the cold weather.
‘As another winter sets in, plummeting temperatures will once again spell misery, ill-health and, in some cases, even death for too many people in later life across the country.
‘The simple fact that the UK has one of the highest winter mortality rates in Europe – higher than even Sweden or Finland – makes it clear this is very much a home-grown problem.
‘These are avoidable deaths due not just to the cold weather in itself but to the country’s inability to meet the challenge of dropping temperatures.’
Public health minister Anne Milton said: ‘Information to help vulnerable people keep warm and well will be made available to GP surgeries and local organisations.
‘The elderly, and those who are ill, are particularly vulnerable during cold weather.
‘We all have a role to play in remembering the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk especially at this time of year.’
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By: Sean Poulter, Consumer Affairs Editor, 24th November 2010