Date Published: 12 January 2007

People urged to protect themselves during the coldest part of the year (UK)

Tomorrow (13.01.07) is St Hilary's day, the coldest day of the year, according to folklore. This dates back to 1086 when a great frost held the country in its grip until late March. It remains true to the present day that this time of year is often the coldest, leaving those most vulnerable at risk from the drop in temperature.

The Department of Health and the Home Heat Helpline (0800 33 66 99), a free telephone advice line funded by Britain's energy retailers, are together urging people to protect themselves against the cold, particularly as January often signals the coldest part of the year. At least 20,000 people die each year in England and Wales as a result of the cold weather and in especially cold winters, deaths have risen to as high as 40,000.

The Department of Health's Keep Warm Keep Well campaign offers advice to older people, disabled people, those on low incomes and anyone else who needs it on keeping warm and staying healthy during the colder months. A free NHS winter 'Keep Warm Keep Well' guide gives plenty of practical tips as well as information on financial support that might be available, such as grants for home improvements to help make houses warmer or help to meet the cost of heating bills.

Callers to the Home Heat Helpline, run by the Energy Retail Association, talk to specially trained staff who provide advice on home heating bills, including information on grants available to make homes more energy efficient, help arrange alternative payment methods to make bills easier to manage, provide access to a priority service team of specialist advisors and linking to other support agencies. The helpline can also take calls from intermediaries, such as friends, family, carers, social workers or health visitors calling on behalf of vulnerable people.

Caroline Flint MP, Minister of State for Public Health said:

" It's vital to look after yourself and each other to keep warm and well during the cold winter months. I'm pleased to say that the Department of Health and Energy Retail Association are joining forces to make information about winter warmth accessible to all who need it.

Look after yourself and your neighbours or relatives in the winter months. My top tips for keeping warm and well are:

  • Stop smoking - within eight hours of stopping smoking, blood oxygen levels increase to normal and your chances of having a heart attack start to fall
  • Eat a healthy balanced diet - take advantage of the winter as an excuse to eat lovely hot stews plenty of hot drinks
  • Keep your hat on and layer up - did you know that several thin layers of clothing keep you much warmer than one thick layer ? "

Duncan Sedgwick, Chief Executive of the Energy Retail Association said:

" It is essential that vulnerable people know where to turn to for information and advice about heating their home when the weather gets cold. The energy industry welcomes this partnership with the Department of Health and I would urge anyone worried about their fuel bills to call the Home Heat Helpline (0800 33 66 99) or contact the Government's Keep Warm Keep Well campaign in order to keep warm and healthy this winter."

A copy of the Keep Warm Keep Well booklet can be obtained by writing to DH Publications, PO Box 777, London SE1 6XH. The book is published in a range of languages and in an easy read format. For the hard of hearing, an audio version of the leaflet is also available.

The Home Heat Helpline number is 0800 33 66 99 and operates from Monday to Friday 9am-8pm and from 10am-2pm on Saturday. There is a minicom number (0800 027 2122) and the helpline also has access to interpreters for those whose first language is not English http://www.homeheathelpline.org

 

Source: UK Department of Health (Government Dept.)

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