UK government warns vulnerable with winter warming advice


London: As the winter months approach, we all need to plan ahead and take steps to help protect ourselves from the elements. Around 20,000 people die each year in England and Wales as a result of the cold weather and in especially cold winters, deaths in the UK could rise as high as 40,000.

The British government’s Department of Health’s Keep Warm Keep Well campaign offers older people, the disabled and those on low incomes advice on keeping warm and staying healthy during the colder months. A free winter guide gives plenty of practical tips as well as information on financial support that might be available, such as grants for home improvements to help make houses warmer or help to meet the cost of heating bills.

Britain’s longest serving TV weather forecaster, Michael Fish MBE (seen in our picture right) and who is championing this year’s campaign, said:

“There is a direct link between cold weather and serious illness – as the temperature drops, the mortality rate rises. A couple of changes to your lifestyle or home can make all the difference to your wellbeing during the winter.”

You can keep warm and well by taking a few precautionary steps:
• Make sure your home is warm this winter:
o Check your heating system works
o Ensure your home is energy efficient so heating bills are kept to a minimum
• Make sure you’re healthy this winter:
o Check with your GP to see if you qualify for a free flu and/or pneumo jab
o Eat well, dress sensibly and take exercise
Keep Warm Keep Well is a partnership between the Department of Health, Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), The Department for Work and Pensions, Help the Aged, Age Concern, National Energy Action, Energywatch and WRVS.

For more information about the Keep Warm Keep Well policy, please contact Erica McAlpine in the Department of Health Press Office on 020 7210 5239 or


1. Source of number of cold weather deaths

2. A copy of the Keep Warm Keep Well booklet can be obtained by writing to DH Publications, PO Box 777, London SE1 6XH. The book is published in a range of languages and in an easy read format. For the hard of hearing, an audio version of the leaflet is also available

3. Campaign materials can be downloaded from the Department of Health website

4. To find out about getting a flu or pneumo jab, people should approach their GP, practice nurse or pharmacist, visit, NHS Direct Interactive on digital satellite TV, or call NHS Direct on 0845 4647

5. For advice on any aspect of Winter Fuel Payments (including eligibility), call the helpline on 08459 15 15 15 (8.30am to 4.30am, Monday-Friday). Please use textphone 0845 601 5613 if you have speech or hearing difficulties. Please have your National Insurance number ready when you call. You can also go to

6. Call a helpline for advice on keeping warm and well this winter:
• Warm Front Scheme 0800 072 0151
• Home Heat Helpline 0800 33 66 99
• NHS Direct (health advice and information) 0845 4647
Calls to NHS Direct cost a maximum of 5 pence per minute from a BT landline. The cost of calls from mobiles and other networks may vary. Your service provider may charge a minimum cost per call. For patients’ safety all calls are recorded

7. Help and advice is also available from:
• Home Improvement Agencies 0145 789 1909
• The Energy Saving Trust’s Energy Efficiency Advice Centres 0800 512 012
• Energywatch 0191 239 3291
• National Energy Action (NEA)


1) Get a flu jab
This is available free from your GP if you are 65 or over, or any age over 6 months with a serious respiratory condition, heart, kidney or liver disease, diabetes or lowered immunity.

2) Dress well
You are at risk if you get cold. Wearing the right amount of clothes in layers and putting on a hat when you go outside, can help keep you much warmer.

3) Eat well
Food is a vital source of warmth. Eat a mixed diet each day and have regular hot meals and drinks throughout the day.

4) Keep moving
Moving around is good for your health and generates extra body heat, so any exercise or activity will help keep you warm.

5) Heat well
Try to keep a temperature of 21 degrees in all rooms you use during the day. Or, at the very least heat your living room during the day and your bedroom at night. Use a hot water bottle or an electric blanket (but never at the same time).

6) Plan ahead
Check your heating system and gas safety. Fitting draught proofing or insulation and getting your chimney swept are just a few things you can do now to make a difference.

7) Get financial support
Initiatives such as the Warm Front Scheme, Winter Fuel Payments and the Home Heat Helpline offer advice and grants for energy-efficiency, fuel bills and insulation for those most vulnerable to the winter. Call to find out your eligibility.

8) Stop smoking
Giving up smoking will boost your health for the winter, reduce your chances of a heart attack and improve your body’s circulation.

9) Look out for your neighbours
If you have an elderly neighbour or relative, make routine visits to their home and keep an eye out for them in the winter months.

10) Look after yourself if you get ill
Keep a well-stocked medicine chest to help you prepare for potential illness. If you go down with flu you should stay at home and take plenty of rest.

Delay in cancer drug treatment for UK women

London: Victims of breast cancer face an agonising three-year wait on the UK’s National Health Srvice for a drug hailed as the biggest breakthrough in 30 years. Doctors say Arimidex could save or prolong the lives of thousands of women.

It dramatically reduces the chances of the cancer spreading and cuts the risk of severe side- effects. But a decision on approving the drug is not due until March 2007.

Between now and then, the disease will claim the lives of nearly 30,000 women. At least 10,000 new patients a year would be suitable for Arimidex while thousands of others could switch treatments.

The annual bill for each woman’s treatment would be £800, compared to about £70 for tamoxifen, the current standard treatment.

After stunning trial results were unveiled yesterday, doctors want Arimidex to become the first-line therapy for early breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

But NHS patients will have to wait – unless they go private and can find a specialist prepared to prescribe the drug.

At the moment, it is only allowed for women who cannot tolerate tamoxifen and for advanced cancer cases.

Drug regulatory officials are considering whether to license Arimidex for initial therapy.

But even then, it still has to be approved by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence before being prescribed widely.

Its decision is not due before March 2007, leaving thousands of women uncertain if they are getting the best treatment.

Professor Jeffrey Tobias, one of the trial investigators, said: ‘It is clear that if Arimidex prevents the disease recurring at distant sites in the body, there is a good chance the cancer won’t come back at all.

‘More women would be surviving for longer periods, free of disease and possibly cured.’

Dr Tobias, Professor of Cancer Medicine at University College and Middlesex School of Medicine, said breast cancer therapy was at a turning point.

‘For the first time, we have a more effective and safer treatment than tamoxifen,’ he said.

‘It’s very unusual for something to emerge that is much more effective than the standard therapy.’

Although tamoxifen was cheaper, Arimidex was ‘good value for money’, he added.

Data from the biggest study of its kind showed that women on the new drug have a 10 per cent higher survival rate after five years of treatment.

It cuts the chances of breast cancer recurring by 26 per cent – over and above the 50 per cent reduction provided by tamoxifen.

Women also run less risk of the cancer spreading to distant parts of the body.

Serious side-effects, such as endometrial cancer and bloodclotting disorders, are also significantly lower. Doctors predict Arimidex will become a bigger life-saver than tamoxifen, which is credited with helping more than 20,000 British women survive since its launch in the 1980s.

Early indications suggest the death rate might be cut by a further 13 per cent compared with tamoxifen.

Study leader Anthony Howell, of the Christie Hospital, Manchester, said patients on tamoxifen should be switched to Arimidex at the ‘earliest opportunity’.

Each year, 41,000 women in the UK develop breast cancer – 30,000 of them after the menopause.

A total of 100,000 would be eligible for the new drug.

Arimidex only helps patients after the menopause as it works by shutting down the body’s supply of the female hormone oestrogen.

Professor Jack Cuzick, of Cancer Research UK, which helped fund the study, said: ‘We are very excited by these results.’

Dr Sarah Rawlings, of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: ‘Tamoxifen has made a big impact but other treatment like Arimidex could also make a big difference.’

Sue Green, of CancerBACUP, said: ‘Women taking tamoxifen should be assured that the treatment is very effective. Anyone concerned should discuss it with their doctor.

‘We would also urge NICE to assess the data urgently so health professionals are given clear guidance.’

Tamoxifen is cheaper as it has been available in generic form for years.

Arimidex has cost millions to develop and is protected by a patent.

The study results were announced at a conference in the U.S. and on the website of medical journal The Lancet.

Lead in water pipes may cause cataracts, say US scientists

Lead in drinking water pipes could increase the risk of cataracts, it has emerged.
Researchers claim a build-up of lead in the body over the years from older plumbing systems could help trigger the eye disorder.

U.S. scientists working on the Normative Ageing Study in Boston checked lead levels in 795 men with an average age of 69. Cataracts were found in 122 of them.

They discovered that men in the top fifth of the lead level range were almost three times more likely to have a cataract than those in the bottom fifth.

The team, who published their findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association, said: ‘Results suggest that cumulative lead exposure is a risk factor for cataracts. Reduction of lead exposure could help decrease the global burden of cataracts.’

Cataracts cause the eye lens to cloud over, leading to impaired vision or even blindness. Threequarters of people aged over 85 have a cataract bad enough to affect their sight, with women more likely to be affected than men.

Anita Lightstone, head of eye health at the Royal National Institute for the Blind, said: ‘We would not wish people to be unduly alarmed as in a large number of cases cataracts can be removed with an operation and good vision can be restored.’

Another American study – published yesterday in the Journal of Nutrition – suggests eating dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and kale, can help prevent cataracts.