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|Another winter is upon us. More will
suffer as the latest social evil
fuel poverty is on the increase.
With this report on the Scottish Lothians comes fresh concerns.
There are fears the number of people
dying as a result of the cold in the Lothians could hit a record
high this winter as it was revealed that last year the death toll
Fuel poverty and seasonal flu have been blamed for last winter's
spike in deaths, and the vast majority of victims were aged over 65.
While the Met Office has predicted a milder winter this time round,
there are fears that figure will rise again – though not because of
The Scottish Government said it was concerned at the increase –
which doubled from the previous year and was the highest in more
than a decade – but added that the long-term trend pointed towards
Dr Alasdair MacLullich, an expert in geriatric medicine at Edinburgh
University, said the rising number of very elderly people,
particularly the over-90s, would impact upon statistics
He said: "Everyone knows there is a growing elderly
population, but there is a very significant rise in the over-85s and
the over-90s every year. Many of these people will be frail and
often in hospital, and this will continue to impact on the situation
by virtue of the numbers in our society.
"Scotland is doing very well in caring for the elderly, but there is
more that can be done. Fuel poverty will also be an issue; there are
a high number of elderly people who are poor, and we shouldn't be in
that situation as a society."
The rise in the Lothians mirrors a national increase, and is causing
concern among health chiefs already worrying about an ageing
Flu expert Dr Sheila Burns, an honorary clinical senior lecturer at
Edinburgh University's school of biosciences and key figure in NHS
Lothian's swine flu plans, said the threat of the new strain should
not impact upon the number of elderly people losing their lives over
the winter period. Instead, the elderly should guard against
She said: "Older people are less at risk from the H1N1 virus. It is
important (the elderly] are vaccinated against seasonal flu."
David Manion, chief executive of Age Concern and Help the Aged in
Scotland said: "There has been a substantial increase in the number
of people who died in winter.
"Affordability is a major factor, with high
energy prices and the
energy efficiency of much of Scotland's housing stock
contributing significantly to
fuel poverty, so more assistance must
be made available."
Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon, who last week launched the
seasonal flu vaccination campaign in Edinburgh, said: "In a modern
Scotland, it is unacceptable that winter should bring with it higher