Although excess winter mortality is associated with low temperatures, conditions directly relating to cold, such as hypothermia, are not the main cause of excess winter mortality.
Mortality in the winter months is consistently higher than at other times of the year. Although influenza and health complications arising from cold weather influence the number of excess winter deaths, lack of heating is only one contributing factor that may affect a particular case. It is not therefore possible to estimate a level of winter fuel payment that would prevent all excess winter deaths attributable to lack of heating.
Winter fuel payments are one part of the overall Government programme to support vulnerable groups in winter. The programme also includes the annual seasonal influenza vaccination programme which offers free flu jabs to people most at risk from potentially life-threatening complications of flu; cold weather payments for vulnerable groups, which have been increased to £25 for 2008-09, and the Warm Front Scheme which focuses on improving home energy efficiency. Warm Front funding has been increased to over £950 million for the three-year period to March 2011 (with £50 million of the existing allocation being spent a year sooner than planned, ensuring that up to 30,000 vulnerable households will have less time to wait for their heating or insulation measures to be fitted).