London: Senior officials in UK’s National Health Service (NHS) on Friday made an “unprecedented” appeal to the government to take action on rising energy prices as the country faces a “public health emergency”.
The NHS Confederation sent a letter to ministers, warning that surging costs mean people will have to choose between skipping meals to heat their homes or living in cold and damp conditions this winter, reports dpa news agency.
Health leaders said they are concerned that widespread fuel poverty will increase the high number of annual deaths associated with cold homes, estimated at 10,000, and add pressure to an already overwhelmed health service.
NHS Confederation chief executive Matthew Taylor said: “The country is facing a humanitarian crisis. Many people could face the awful choice between skipping meals to heat their homes and having to live in in cold, damp and very unpleasant conditions.
“This in turn could lead to outbreaks of illness and sickness around the country and widen health inequalities, worsen children’s life chances, and leave an indelible scar on local communities.”
Taylors said these outbreaks of illness will strike “just as the NHS is likely to experience the most difficult winter on record”.
“NHS leaders have made this unprecedented intervention as they know that fuel poverty will inevitably lead to significant extra demand on what are already very fragile services,” he added.
“Health leaders are clear that, unless urgent action is taken by the government, this will cause a public health emergency.”
It comes as energy regulator Ofgem is set to raise the cap on energy prices from October, leading household bills to soar.
The government has faced calls to freeze bills or provide more support to households, but Ministers have said no action will be taken until a new Prime Minister is in place on September 5.