Following the recent announcement from Age UK earlier this week that last year’s cold winter claimed the lives of thousands of older people, East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust and Blackburn with Darwen Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) have joined up to offer advice to the local community, many of whom seek treatment and support from the Trust and backing Age UK’s annual Spread the Warmth campaign.
Dr Ray Hyatt, Consultant Physician and Orthogeriatrician at East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We see an increase in hospital admissions at this time of year among the older age group. Excess winter mortality is greatest in older people with analysis showing that the following conditions contributed to most of the excess winter deaths in England: Circulatory (heart disease and stroke), and Respiratory diseases (Influenza, Pneumonia and chronic lower respiratory diseases).
“The North West had a particularly high prevalence last year and excess winter mortality continues to be an important public health issue in the UK. As you become older it may become more difficult for your body to detect how cold you are; and this may lead to illness and potentially an admission to hospital. By following some simple tips, you can help protect your health this winter:
- Keep your living room temperature around 70˚F (21˚C)
- Keep your bedroom around 65˚F (18˚C)
- Keep your bedroom window closed at night when the weather is cold.
- Make sure you are receiving any benefits you are entitled to, such as the Winter Fuel Payment and Cold Weather Payment.
- Regular hot drinks and eating at least one hot meal a day will help keep energy levels up during winter and keep your body warm.
- Make sure you get the seasonal flu jab which should reduce your vulnerability to infection.”
Loneliness and social isolation has been linked to poor health and wellbeing with research showing it can be as harmful to people’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.
To address the issue locally, Blackburn with Darwen Council has recruited new community wellbeing coordinators to help identify and develop good neighbour schemes and work with community groups to increase the number of volunteers and identify funding opportunities. The BwD Winter Facebook page is also up and running to keep residents updated on local weather reports and gritting routes throughout the winter months.
Councillor Mohammed Khan, Executive Member for Health and Adult Social Care, said: “Social connections are vitally important for people’s health and wellbeing. Loneliness is harmful to health and older people are a high risk group. The Council has identified this issue as a key priority and is investing in tackling the problem. Everyone needs to work together to stop people from being lonely and isolated from their community. If you able to please check on any older neighbours throughout the winter months to make sure they’re okay and help out with any tasks like shopping.”
If you have any specific concerns about a socially isolated elderly neighbour, call (01254) 585921. For general information on keeping safe and well through the winter or for information about the Council’s good neighbours schemes, call (01254) 292620.
Dr Pervez Muzaffar, GP Executive at Blackburn with Darwen CCG, added: “If you have an elderly relative or neighbour then check on them regularly and make sure they are eating properly and keeping warm and looking after themselves. We all need to play our part this winter and a few simple steps will help older people stay well and out of hospital.”
Anyone who wants more advice or is worried about the coming winter and staying warm and well can ring the Age UK advice line 0800 169 6565 for advice on ways Age UK can help this winter.