The lives of more than 40,000 people could be needlessly lost this winter as a direct result of the cold and snow, council bosses warned yesterday (Thursday 5 February 2009).
With the country shivering under the worst snow in nearly two decades, and with the Met Office forecasting further rain, sleet and snow for parts of the UK through the weekend and into next week, councils have issued a three-point plan to help prevent as many deaths as possible.
Last winter, during average temperatures, the cold was blamed for more than 25,000 extra deaths in England and Wales, the vast majority among the over-75s, said the Local Government Association (LGA). The harsher conditions already being experienced this year threaten to push that total much higher, the LGA warns.
The councils' recommended three-step plan is:
Cllr David Rogers, Chair of the Community Wellbeing Board at the LGA, said: "Everyone's aware how bitterly cold the weather is at the moment, and for older people these freezing temperatures pose a real danger. A few simple steps can save lives, and reduce the number of deaths that happen needlessly every year.
"Local people have a crucial part to play in helping identify those who may need more help," he added.
How has the snow affected you and your practice? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):
"I have also praised my staff on attending every day last week. Some walked, as I did, taking an hour, but set off early and most were in work on time. All staff were here and thankfully the majority of our patients did phone to cancel for doctors if they couldn't make it, but nurses seemed to have been left not knowing whether patient were attending or not" – Diane Fox, West Yorks
"Very disappointed in how the country deals with the adverse weather conditions. My surgery was hit with snow, however all of my administration team, including call handlers and reception staff, made it in, even though some were late. I myself walked to the surgery – taking 50 minutes in 5 inches of snow. We had four GPs not able to make it, and two GPs arrived after their normal 30-minute journey took up to two hours on Monday – but how frustrating that patients did not have the courtesy to cancel their appointment instead of just not showing up. We also adopted a new service where the GPs called all the late morning and afternoon appointments and offered them a telephone consultation rather than patients coming out. This went down with our patients really well. We have still kept our surgery open till 18:30 each evening and opened at 8:00am despite the weather conditions. Our professional conduct is to ensure that we continue to offer a service to the community. Very disappointed with support from our PCT – to date they have not made any contact to ask how our services have been affected. We could after all have just closed for a few days – they probably wouldn't have cared, just stopped our income!" – Louise Bzdek, Practice Manager, Slough
"I am amazed at how quickly schools closed during the recent bout of bad weather. On Wednesday, I was telephoned to collect my children from school due to snow. There was no snow on the ground at the time and only small flakes falling, which were not settling due to the wet conditions. Working in a healthcare setting I find it very difficult – being asked to leave work in order to collect my children when there is no need for the school to close. If all healthcare staff behaved as others, the patients would be left to care for each other as all staff would be at home due to the snow!" – E Jane Regan, Laboratory Administrator, Carmarthenshire