More than 1,000 people died unnecessarily in Devon last winter
GOVERNMENT statistics have revealed there were 1,040 confirmed excess winter deaths in Devon during 2014/15, an increase of 160 per cent from the previous year.
The total number of excess winter deaths across the UK as a whole during 2014/15 was 43,850, the highest level seen in over 15 years.
The sharp increase has been largely attributed to the failure of the flu vaccine which experts say was only effective in one in three cases.
Provisional figures for last winter show a drop in the number of winter deaths but there were still 2,700 recorded in the South West.
However, experts claim that if you remove the anomaly of the 2014/15 figures, which were skewed by high number of flu related deaths, the 2015/16 deaths are still nearly 40 per cent higher than the number recorded in 2013/14.
Excess winter deaths are defined as the difference between the number of deaths in the winter months (December to March) compared with the previous (August to November) and following (April to July) three months.
A key contributing factor in these deaths is the high number of people in the UK still living in cold homes with rural parts of the country, such as Devon, disproportionately affected because houses are typically older with poorer insulation.
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, the trade body for the oil heating industry, said: "Every year a significant number of people die unnecessarily as a result of living in a cold home over the winter.
"The shocking increase in the number of excess winter deaths seen over the past two years shows there is still much more that needs to be done to help keep vulnerable people warm.
"Fortunately, the 41,000 households in Devon who use oil to heat their homes are continuing to enjoy the cheapest fuel bills by far of all the main heating fuels, so they can afford to keep their heating on for longer this winter.
"However, during this expensive time of year, many households may still be tempted to turn down their thermostats to save money but by doing so they could be putting their health at risk."