Headlines: March 19th, 2003

Greater effort needs to be made to end fuel poverty according to the Energy Minister, Brian Wilson. He has called for more resources to be invested in tackling the problem and said this would not only bring a significant improvement to the nation’s health, but would result in long term savings to the NHS.The minister welcomed government figures showing a dramatic fall in the numbers of households in fuel poverty, but called for more action so the problem could be wiped out. Every winter about 30,000 deaths are attributed to cold weather, with many thousands more people estimated to be suffering ill health because of a combination of poorly insulated homes, and inadequate heating. The cost to the health sector has been estimated at about a billion pounds a year.

Mr. Wilson said the trends were positive. The latest statistics on UK fuel poverty showed that it affected about 3 million households, down more than 40 per cent over the past six years. He said the health sector could be a lot more involved in addressing the problem and needed to put some resources into helping to develop the local and regional networks which could tackle fuel poverty source.

“One of the dividends of ending fuel poverty is improved health. Each winter hospitals have beds filled with people who have recovered from ill health, but cannot be discharged because their cold homes will soon put them back into hospital,” he added.