There’s an unprecedented risk of more deaths from cold homes this winter, the National Health Service warns.
The UK could face a “humanitarian crisis” involving ill health, excess deaths and rising inequality if the government does not take urgent action on rising energy bills, the National Health Service (NHS) Confederation warned on Friday.
The organization wrote to the chancellor of the exchequer, claiming that failing to act would add more pressure on health services that were already strained. According to the NHS, if energy bills become unaffordable, the country’s health and social care system will be left to “pick up the pieces.”
“The country is facing a humanitarian crisis. Many people could face the awful choice between skipping meals to heat their homes and having to live in cold, damp and very unpleasant conditions,” wrote the head of the NHS Nadhim Zahawi. “This, in turn, could lead to outbreaks of illness and sickness around the country and widen health inequalities, worsen children’s life chances and leave an indelible scar on local communities.”
The NHS highlighted that, in addition to causing more sickness, mass fuel poverty was also likely to “increase the already high number of annual deaths associated with cold homes.” It noted the situation could also affect mental health.
“Health leaders are clear that unless urgent action is taken by the government, this will cause a public health emergency,” Zahawi stressed.
The warning comes as energy bills for the average household in Britain are projected to rise to more than £4,200 ($4,960) per year from January 2023 after the next increase in the price cap. Last October, it was set at £1,400 ($1,653).
Image credit: Mikhail Nilov