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Record rise in Scottish winter deaths a bleak warning for rest of UK

Scotland's winter death toll last year was the highest for more than 30 years according to the National Records of Scotland (NRS).


Data shows there were 24,427 deaths registered in Scotland between December 2022 and March 2023 - 11% more than the previous winter and the highest since 1989-90.


The NPC now fears the Scottish increase might be an early indicator of a significant rise in the mortality rate for the rest of the UK, which the Office of National Statistics (ONS) are due to announce later this year.


NPC General Secretary Jan Shortt said: “The 2022-23 winter mortality rate figures from Scotland are shocking and do not bode well for the rest of the UK. We always feared this year’s figures would be worse than last year, right across the UK. We warned the government in January that urgent action would be needed to avoid unnecessary deaths. But little or nothing has been done.


“It is shameful that anyone should die from cold related illness in this country. However, the ongoing rise in the cost of living, rampant energy prices, and the continuing crisis in the NHS and social care are taking a toll of our oldest and most vulnerable. “


Record rise in Scottish winter deaths a bleak warning for rest of UK


The ONS figures are normally announced in November, but the last set were delayed until January of this year. NPC, alongside End Fuel Poverty Coalition, Unite the Union, Scottish Pensioners’ Forum and other groups will once again hold Winter Deaths protest marches in London and around the UK.


The NRS figures showed there were 4,137 additional winter deaths between December 2022 and March 2023 in Scotland - the seasonal increase in mortality that occurs between December and March. This is calculated by comparing the death total for this period with the average number of deaths for August to November and April to July - the two four-month periods immediately before and after the winter.


The latest seasonal increase in mortality was "considerably higher" for 2022-23 than the previous year, NRS said, but was lower than both the winters of 2017-18 and 2020-21.


In its annual flu report for the 2022 to 2023 flu season, the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) indicated that excess deaths in England associated with flu infection were higher (14,500) than the average figure (13,500) for the five years before the pandemic. This is the highest figure since the 2017 to 2018 season, when there were 22,500 excess deaths associated with flu. It is also the first time flu has been widespread since the COVID-19 pandemic began.


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