Treat OAP fuel poverty as seriously as coronavirus – The Yorkshire Post says

IT is an irony of timing that the spread of coronavirus, and the ability of the NHS to handle a public health epidemic, has coincided with freezing weather.

Fuel poverty is linked to tens of thousands of deaths each winter.

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Yet, while contingency planning is critical, the regret is that similiar attention has not been, and will not, be afforded to another condition that can put the health of the elderly in jeopardy: hypothermia.

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Despite the best efforts of Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis, and others, over many years, fuel poverty remains ignored by politicians – not even more than 50,000 cold weather-related deaths in the winter of 2017-18 persuaded Ministers to act.

What more can be done to improve the insulation of homes?

However, as a new report by the Centre for Ageing Better makes painfully clear today, more than two million people aged 55 or over are living in a home which endangers their health or wellbeing.

A headline number which is only going to increase as a result of an ageing population, it is significant that the ‘national scandal’ of poor insulation and energy efficiency is one of the primary factors alongside poor maintenance – or hazards, like steps, that the elderly, and less mobile, can struggle to negotiate.

And while maintenance of properties is a responsibility for the owners, the issue is more complex for public and private housing in the rental sector – more targeted action is clearly needed in this sector. Nevertheless the lesson is a clear one. If the burden on the hard-pressed NHS is to ever be eased, a greater emphasis is needed on all aspects of public health, from diet and alcohol consumption to the quality of housing, rather than delegating social policy to hospitals. By then, it is already too late.