The National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) has begun a consultation on draft guidance on how to reduce the risk of death and ill health associated with living in a cold home.
Cold weather has a direct effect on the number of people experiencing heart attacks, stroke, respiratory disease and flu. Around 24,000 more people die in England and Wales between December and March each year; 3 in 4 of these deaths are in the over 75 population. As well as those who are already living with an existing respiratory or circulatory disease, people most likely to be affected often have a low income or a home, which is hard to heat.
According to NICE, ‘hard to heat homes’ include:
- Those with solid walls;
- Those with no loft space;
- Those in a state of disrepair;
- High rise blocks;
- Those not connected to and that cannot be connected to, the gas grid and which depend upon ‘off-mains’ fuels including heating oil, LPG and solid fuel;
- Other factors, such as listed architectural features and where accessibility or construction quality may make it difficult to significantly improve the SAP rating – which indicates how well buildings retain heat.
Commenting on the draft guidelines, Professor Mike Kelly, Director of the Centre for Public Health at NICE said, “Although most causes of death and illness vary throughout the seasons, there is a clear increase during winter months. Around 24,000 additional people die during this time each year in England and Wales, mostly from cardiovascular and respiratory conditions. This is not just about extreme cold weather, but normal winter temperatures – when outdoor temperatures drop below 6°C.
“Services to ensure people are warm enough at home already exist, but they are patchy across the country, and this lack of consistency makes it very difficult for professionals to know what support is available locally and how to get help for those who need it. This draft guideline covers people who are vulnerable to the cold, including those over 65, people with respiratory conditions such as children with asthma, and people with cardiovascular conditions.
“This new draft guideline aims to help reduce these preventable deaths and ill health. Recommendations include identifying those at risk, ensuring that a referral can be made for insulation or heating improvements if necessary and raising awareness of local systems and services to help people who are living in homes that are too cold. People need to be aware of how the cold affects their health and where they can seek help if they need it.”
The draft guidance can now be viewed on the NICE website – click here to view the consultation zone. Responses to the consultation from registered stakeholders, should be submitted no later than 5pm 25 July 2014.