A YORKSHIRE MP has vowed to lead a national crusade against fuel poverty as two damning reports reveal the scale of the country’s care crisis this winter.
Barnsley MP Dan Jarvis has vowed to work with energy suppliers, housing providers and charities to “save lives” after National Energy Acton (NEA) warned it could take at least 80 years to insulate homes.
Its shocking findings came on the day NHS chiefs warned that the health service will struggle to cope with a flu epidemic because they do not have the resources to cope with such an outbreak.
With new statistics showing that 24,300 elderly people died prematurely last winter from hypothermia and related illnesses, Mr Jarvis today accuses the Government of neglecting the issue and challenges Prime Minister Theresa May to devise a “credible, ambitious, cross-government” strategy which tackles issues like home insulation.
Writing in The Yorkshire Post, the prominent Labour backbencher says he is no longer prepared to sit idly by after it emerged that 152,000 older, vulnerable people have died prematurely over the past five winters.
“This Government is still failing to offer real or meaningful action. They must take excess winter deaths seriously but their response so far has been nothing short of complacent and irresponsible. And it’s costing lives,” he says.
If we want to save lives this winter, we need action now. And I, for one, am determined to make sure we get it.Dan Jarvis, Labour MP for Barnsley Central
“That’s why I’m engaging with the major energy companies, housing providers and charities to address this problem and challenging them to do more this winter to reduce excess winter months and protect our most vulnerable friends and neighbours.
“If we want to save lives this winter, we need action now. And I, for one, am determined to make sure we get it.”
According to the NEA, four million UK households live in cold, damp homes and it is affecting their life chances, yet too little action is being taken.
Jenny Saunders, the charity’s chief executive, said: “We need to see much more ambition from national and local government if we are to end the unnecessary cost and suffering caused by fuel poverty.
“As well as continuing to tackle exclusion in the energy market, the answer lies in increasing investment in domestic energy efficiency.
“We need to follow the example of other developed countries and be driving massive permanent reduction in total energy demand across the UK.”
The urgency of addressing the huge number of people who are falling ill as a result of fuel poverty is starkly illustrated by a new NHS Providers report which states that the health service in England is “running at capacity levels beyond the recommended norm” and as a result is “less able to absorb shocks”.
Speaking today at NHS Providers annual conference Chris Hopson, chief executive of the membership body which represents NHS workers, will say: “The service is becoming much less resilient.
“When you run a system under as much pressure for as long as we have been running the NHS, it becomes much less able to absorb the shocks that any health system has to absorb; the winter flu outbreak, the closure of a couple of local care homes due to a CQC inspection or a provider going out of business, a few experienced GPs retiring and being replaced by more risk averse locums or new partners leading to sharply higher referral rates.
“Given the capacity levels at which we are now permanently running our hospital, ambulance, community and mental health services - capacity levels unheard of in Germany, France, Spain and Italy - these small shocks now risk destabilising local health services.”
Mr Hopson will continue: “We believe the Government should increase funding. And if it won’t, it has to honestly accept the consequences - that the NHS can no longer deliver what is being asked of it and the offer has to change.”