NHS wants 'Winter Friends' to help older neighbours
Published on 27 November 2013 03:30 PM
The NHS has called for an army of good samaritans in England to become a 'Winter Friend' to neighbours who may be at risk during cold weather.
Stars including actress Joanna Lumley, Olympic champion Sally Gunnell and rapper Plan B are backing the campaign, which aims to see 10,000 people sign an online pledge stating that they will take time out to check on a friend or neighbour during the winter months.
There are concerns that older people in particular may be putting their health at risk if they cut back on heating as rising energy prices could force them to choose between a warm house and other essentials such as food.
Those who sign the pledge will be asked to make sure neighbours are warm and coping well, and to get them to seek early advice or go to their local pharmacy or GP if they are concerned. This is to prevent one possible problem leading to another, a situation that could eventually see an older person requiring hospital treatment.
Little help goes a long way
Lumley, who was first to sign the pledge, said she was 'proud' to lend her support to the campaign. She added that a little help goes a long way and that sparing a bit of time to check on a neighbour 'is hugely rewarding'.
The campaign was launched following the release of figures earlier this week which revealed that the number of deaths linked to the cold weather soared by 29% last winter, when the UK shivered in bitterly cold temperatures and witnessed significant snowfall as late in the year as March. In fact, March was the coldest since 1962, with the average temperature staying below 3C.
And it was older people who were worse affected by the 31,000 additional deaths, with over-75s accounting for 25,600 of the total.
This is because the colder weather raises the risk of heart attacks, respiratory disease, flu and falls, and with more than half of the over-75s living alone it is vital that they get regular visitors during the winter months.
Copyright Press Association 2013