LONDON, Dec. 27 (UPI) -- A British program that helped 200,000 people who are old, frail and cold that cost $16.5 million a year was axed, despite many dying of cold, officials say.
The government revealed last month that number of winter deaths rose by a third last year, with 31,000 excess deaths reported, the Daily Telegraph said.
The Warm Homes, Healthy People program had local authorities use innovative ways to try to reduce excess winter morbidity and mortality in line with the Cold Weather Plan for England, which aimed to protect the vulnerable from the cold.
For example, retirees in Bedfordshire were provided with emergency food parcels, while an emergency shopping service was set up in North Staffordshire for those who could not get out in bleak weather. The program also helped provide emergency boiler repairs, hot meals to frail elderly patients leaving the hospital, snow-clearing and advice about pay fuel bills, the Telegraph said.
Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, said it was shameful for the government to cut the funds for the program since Britain has such a problem with winter deaths.
"Given all the fears about an National Health Service winter crisis, and the recent figures on winter deaths, it seems crazy not to concentrate efforts on ensuring warm homes for the elderly," Ashton told the Telegraph. "We know that in the week after every cold snap we see a surge in deaths, and that shouldn't be inevitable."
"We are working to help people keep warm this winter, at the same time as helping them keep their bills as low as possible. That's why we have cold weather payments, winter fuel payments, an enlarged state pension and the Warm Homes Discount which is helping 2 million households, including well over 1 million of the poorest pensioners, by taking $222 off their bills. We are also helping people by legislating to force energy companies to put customers on the best deal," a government spokesman said.