New government statistics have revealed there were 1,800 excess winter deaths recorded in Wales last winter.

Excess winter deaths are defined as the difference between the number of deaths in the winter months (December to March) compared with the previous (August to November) and following (April to July) three months.

The figures indicate that people in rural parts of Wales are disproportionally affected because their homes tend to be older with poorer insulation and so are harder to keep warm.

This issue is highlighted in the report which states that cold temperatures are associated with increased blood pressure and a lower immune system which puts older and vulnerable people most at risk.

With the wintery weather already well underway, OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, has produced a free information guide including tips and advice on staying warm, essential phone numbers, help with finding a local heating technician and guidance on applying for heating payment schemes.

The ‘Keeping warm this winter’ guide, which can be downloaded from the OFTEC website, also recommends:

Keeping the main living room heated to a temperature of at least 21 degrees

Adjusting the timers on your thermostat as the weather changes

Bleeding your radiators to ensure the heating system is running efficiently

Turning off radiators in rooms you are not using to save money

Local households are also being urged, if they haven’t already done so, to have their heating system serviced by an OFTEC (for oil or solid fuel) or GasSafe (for mains gas) registered technician. These professionals have been certified as fully competent and will check everything is working correctly, safely and efficiently.

Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC said: “The government’s statistics reveal that, once again, a shockingly high number of people have died unnecessarily. There is clearly still much more to do to ensure the most vulnerable in society are kept warm and well during the winter months.

“Christmas is an expensive time of year and many struggling families may turn their heating down to save money – even though this can put their health at risk. Whilst there is some good news for households on oil heating who are benefitting from sustained low oil prices and the cheapest fuel bills, it is essential that all households are made aware of the support available to them which is why we have produced our free winter guide.”

For more information and to download the free booklet, visit the OFTEC website.