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Cold-related A&E admissions slammed

An extra 110,000 patients were diagnosed with cold-related illnesses at A&E last year, Labour's shadow health secretary Andy Burnham will say as he blames the Government for failing to rein in energy bills.

Mr Burnham will reveal that there were 109,000 more emergency admissions made across English hospitals in 2012/13 where circulatory or respiratory diseases were identified as the primary diagnoses. The figure represents a 10% increase on 2009/10, the year before the coalition came to power and a series of wide-sweeping NHS reforms were put in motion.

The former health secretary will say the figures provide tangible proof of "the effect on A&E of the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy bills".

In a State of the NHS address in Birmingham today, Mr Burnham will say: "The Government has allowed A&E to come under siege from all sides to the point where it is now in danger of being overwhelmed.

"A&E today is becoming the last resort for millions of people who are struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis and cuts to community services. This explains why the current financial year is set to be the worst in A&E for at least a decade.

"Severe cuts to NHS community services, mental health and social care are pushing people needlessly to A&E which in turn needs even more staff to cope. This short-sighted approach has trapped the NHS in a vicious circle, with hospitals paying huge sums to staff agencies for short-term A&E cover.

"This is the tragic human cost of David Cameron's failure to stand up to the energy companies.

"Only Labour's promise to freeze energy bills will put an end to the scandal of cold homes and protect older people from poor health."

Mr Burnham's speech will reiterate Labour's belief that the Government is overseeing a cost-of-living crisis, compounded by its failure to stand up to the energy companies. He will argue that its top-down reorganisation of the NHS has left hospitals weakened, and that together with soaring heating costs have contributed to the rise in respiratory and circulatory A&E admissions since 2010.

According to Labour's analysis, 1,176,353 people went to A&E with circulatory and respiratory problems in 2012/13, up from 1,067,134 in 2009/10 - a difference of 109,219. They blame this partly on rising household bills, which have gone up by an average of £300 since the election.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that an estimated 31,100 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2012/13 - a 29% increase compared with the previous winter.

A Department for Energy and Climate Change spokesman said: "Last winter had particularly long periods of cold weather, and all across Europe we saw increased cases of flu and respiratory conditions.

"This Government is working to help vulnerable people with their energy bills through the warm home discount, providing a £135 rebate on electricity bills to more than 1.2 million of the poorest pensioners, winter fuel payments and cold weather payments."


From Belfast Telegraph