43,900 Winter deaths are highest since 1999

By Joe Mellor, Deputy Editor

Regrettably last year there were an estimated 43,900 death in England and Wales last winter. It was the highest number since 1999.

A report has said that the flu virus was the major cause of the rise and most of the deaths involved people who are over 75. One of the reasons why so many people died due to the flu virus, is because the vaccine was less effective than previous years.

There were more deaths in women than men the figures from the Office of National Statistics revealed.  Commenting on the provisional statistics, Claudia Wells, at the ONS, said: “A major cause behind the rise was the flu virus, with estimates showing that the flu vaccine was not as effective this winter compared to previous years. While the cold temperature is a factor, most of last winter was warmer than average.”

Public health officials estimate that last year’s flu vaccine – chosen by the World Health Organization – was effective in 34% of people. Caroline Abrahams, at Age UK, said: “Behind the figures are many individual tragedies of older people dying needlessly before their time.”

A Department of Health spokesperson said: “Excess winter deaths can be due to a number of causes including cold snaps, flu and other respiratory infections.”

The ONS defines excess winter deaths as the number of people whose deaths were registered between December and March, compared with the previous three months and the following three months.

Respiratory illnesses such as influenza and pneumonia were the underlying causes of death in more than a third of all winter cases.

The high number of excess winter deaths in 2014/15 was not unique to the UK, with 14 other European countries also reporting an increase in winter deaths.

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