A national cold weather plan should be developed to help reduce England’s annual winter death toll, chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson has said in his final annual report.

Delivering the report at the Royal Society in London today, Sir Liam said that between December and March every year there are around 30,000 excess deaths in England, far higher than in comparable countries.

A cold snap in warmer countries catches people out

“The coldest countries tend to be very well prepared - Finland has a 45 per cent lower excess death rate than the UK,” he said. “A cold snap in warmer countries catches people out and excess mortality doesn’t return to normal for around 40 days,” he added.

Sir Liam said that most winter deaths occur due to increased cardiac and respiratory problems and strokes, with people with underlying cardiovascular or respiratory disease and the elderly being most most at risk.

In the report, he says that these illnesses occur in a predictable pattern following cold weather, enabling local and national planning.

“We have a comprehensive and effective national heatwave plan that is put in place during excessively hot weather. If a comparable national cold weather plan were to be developed, it could save thousands of lives each year,” he said.