Massive 40% rise in emergency calls for people ‘at risk of freezing to death’

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Emergency calls for people at risk of freezing to death have shot up by around 40% in England since 2019, according to new data released with more than half of them elderly

The NHS has been battling a huge rise in 999 calls from people at risk of freezing to death.

Calls for hypothermia have shot up by around 40% in England since 2019, data released under Freedom of Information laws indicates. Almost half of these were for people of pensionable age.

Ambulance trusts were asked for data on their longest delays, with the worst being a pensioner in the South East waiting 16 hours. The rise came at the same time as surging energy prices and sharp increases in rent and mortgages.

Daisy Cooper, health ­spokeswoman for the Lib Dems, which obtained the data, said: “No one should have to suffer an endless wait for an ambulance whilst shivering in the unbearable cold. It is no wonder these tragic cases are becoming more common, with the cost of living forcing millions to have to choose between heating and eating.

“Thousands have waited anxiously in the cold for hours on the ­Conservative’s watch.” It comes after official NHS data confirmed Rishi Sunak had failed to meet a host of 999 waiting time targets during 2023/24. Ambulance response times fell last month but crucial targets were all missed. The most urgent calls for life-threatening issues had a response time of eight minutes and 20 seconds on average last month, still well above a target of seven minutes.

Seven ambulance trusts gave data after requests were submitted to all 14 in the UK. There were 1,410 callouts for hypothermia-related issues last year. This was up 38% on 1,021 in 2019.

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