There are more excess winter deaths across the Harrogate district than anywhere else in North Yorkshire, latest figures have revealed.
North Yorkshire County Council’s (NYCC) report into their Winter Health Strategy for 2015-2020 revealed there were 420 excess deaths across the district between 2009-2014.
Excess winter deaths have been calculated by comparing the number of deaths between December to Match with the average number in the proceeding August to November and following April to July.
An increase in slips and trips due to icy surfaces as well as heart attacks, respiratory and influenza related disease were all linked to the excess deaths with people over 75 judged to be at greater risk.
Coun David Chance, executive member for public health, explained that Harrogate was the most at risk district in the county because of its older average age but stressed a strategy was in place to combat this.
He said: “The rate of Excess Winter Deaths across the whole of the UK is three times higher than other colder countries in Northern Europe.
“Although cold weather is clearly a factor in excess deaths, Scandinavian countries for example do not have the same pattern of excess winter deaths, giving a strong indication that this is a preventable situation.
“One of the main problems is people don’t realise the temperature they need to keep their heating at and, because of fuel poverty, try to keep it as low as possible.
“That’s why we have to get this message across about the dangers of a cold winter and encourage family members and neighbours to check on the elderly residents.”
Coun Chance explained NYCC have now set out strategic objectives to reduce these preventable winter deaths by reducing fuel poverty, increasing immunisation uptake rates and reducing injury resulting from trips and falls.
In order to do this, the county council will aim to work together with the independent and public sector to ‘provide support’ to vulnerable people across the district.
Kate Rogata, director of Harrogate charity Supporting Older People welcomed NYCC’s ambitions to improve their local response to the cold conditions .
She said that while the figures from the Harrogate district did surprise her, she warned that not enough residents are aware of the help that’s available to them.
She said: “There’s an awful lot of organisations within Harrogate that do support older people so it makes you wonder what would happen if we were not here.
“The Two Ridings Foundation have a fuel poverty campaign every year and last year we were given £500 to help if someone’s boiler broke.
“We publicised it well but we didn’t get a single application. I know last winter was a warm one but in the end we had to pay it all back.
“People need to be aware these organisations are to help them or if neighbours notice a problem they can access it. You don’t just have to cope with the cold.”