UK Government

Department of Health (National): Public Urged to Think of Those who Need Extra Care in the Cold

Press Release   •   Nov 23, 2010 11:40 GMT

NHS puts preparations in place to deal with winter pressures

As the weather gets colder, it is important to remember the needs of friends, elderly relatives and neighbours who could be at risk the Department of Health warned today.

Official figures from the Office of National Statistics today demonstrate the deadly impact that cold weather can have, especially on older people during winter. They show that, last year, there were an estimated 25,400 excess deaths mostly linked to circulatory and respiratory diseases.

Following a few basic principles can make a big difference to the safety and wellbeing of those at risk.

Measures such as: 
* checking on them to make sure they are safe and well; 
* making sure they're warm enough, especially at night; and 
* stocking up on food and medicines.

Public Health Minister Anne Milton said

"The reduction in excess winter deaths last year is to be welcomed. We want to ensure that the NHS and the public are equally well prepared this year. 

"We are working across Government on our cold weather plans. They are supported by our pledge to retain the winter fuel allowance, which will help people to keep homes warm. And we have turned the temporary increase in the Cold Weather Payments introduced by the last government, into a permanent increase. 

"Information to help vulnerable people keep warm and keep well, will be made available to GP surgeries and local organisations. 

"The elderly, and those who are ill, are particularly vulnerable during cold weather. We all have a role to play in remembering the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk especially at this time of year".

The Department of Health has also made leaflets and posters giving advice on how to keep warm and well available for download for NHS and local organisations.

For those who do need medical attention, the NHS is well prepared. 

There is always more pressure on the NHS at this time of year and this year will be no different. It deals with rises in slips, trips and falls, increases in admissions due to flu and other health problems associated with the colder weather and the winter vomiting bug noro-virus.
The routine preparations have seen each local area put escalation procedures in place for: 
* greater bed capacity at peak times; 
* better transfers of patients between ambulance and hospital;
* heightened operational readiness; and
* enhanced out of hours arrangements.
Commenting on the specific challenges the NHS faces at this time of year Health Minister Simon Burns said: 
"Every year, there is extra pressure on NHS services over the winter months. That's why we've asked the NHS to put plans in place to help mitigate the risks of a surge in demand. 
"Across the country, our staff are already working hard and doing great work to respond to this extra demand and I am very grateful for all their continued efforts. 
"Always dial '999' in an emergency. But if you do not have an emergency, it may be more appropriate to contact your GP, NHS Direct or your pharmacy."

Notes to editor

1. For further information please contact the DH press office on 020 7210 5221.
2. For more information on winter health please visit
3. Keep Warm and Well messages can be downloaded at
4. People can take the following practical steps to minimise the risks to themselves during periods of cold weather:
a. Have regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day - if possible, eating regularly helps to keep energy levels up during winter.
b. Wear several light layers of warm clothes. 
c. Keep as active as possible. 
d. Remember to wrap up warm if you need to go outside on cold days.
e. Keep your room at the right temperature, between 18 and 21 degrees centigrade, or 64 and 70 degrees fahrenheit


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