Cold Weather Plan for England 2013 published

Cold_Weather_Plan_2013_FCThe publication of the first Cold Weather Plan for England in 2011 marked a milestone for public health in this country. Cold kills. The impact of cold weather on health has been recognised. There are too many avoidable deaths each winter, with just over 24,000 each year in England and Wales. However, the causes are complex, interlinked with fuel poverty, poor housing and health inequalities, as well as circulating infectious diseases, particularly flu and norovirus, and the extent of snow and ice.

This year’s Cold Weather Plan for England has been updated to incorporate the changes in the NHS and public health landscape. Public health is now a key responsibility for local authorities, with health and wellbeing boards tasked with protecting and improving the health of their local populations.

To inform and encourage action, the Public Health Outcomes Framework, first published in January 2012, includes indicators to reduce excess winter deaths and address fuel poverty. Strong local leadership and partnership working at all levels across sectors is therefore vital to tackle the range of causes and reduce the number of “excess” deaths that are observed each winter.

This Cold Weather Plan for England helps to raise the public’s awareness of the harm to health from cold, provides guidance on how to prepare for and respond to cold weather which can affect everybody’s health, and triggers actions in the NHS, public health, social care and other community organisations, to support vulnerable people who have health, housing or economic circumstances that increase their risk to harm. Communities and civil society can also help their neighbours, friends and relatives to protect against avoidable harm to health in winter.

While the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has clearly shown us that climate change is occurring – the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea levels have risen – the expected increase in extreme weather events includes dangerous cold snaps. These will have more effect as we become accustomed to warmer climes – so we are going to need the guidance in these pages to protect from the effects of cold for many years to come.

Professor Dame Sally C Davies
Chief Medical Officer
Department of Health

The 2013 Cold Weather Plan is available here.