With winter fast approaching, Public Health England has published its Cold Weather Plan for people who have forgotten what a winter is or are too poor to do anything about it.
There are on average 24,000 excess winter deaths, many of which might be worth preventing. It’s a situation which Health Secretary Jeremy ‘Hunt’ described as ‘completely unacceptable’, ‘someone else’s fault’ and ‘a welcome boost to the housing market’.
The Plan aims to alert people to the surprising fact that cold weather in England is, on the whole, not very warm and as in previous years the Met Office will trigger cold weather alerts at five levels:
Level 0: Nippy. Breathing out can make you look cool. As if you’re smoking.
Level 1: Brisk. Eat a warm pie or curl up into a ball.
Level 2: Chilly. Mention or, if essential, telephone elderly relatives to check they’re OK. Perhaps buy them a mobile phone. Short-term contracts advised.
Level 3: Arctic. Visit in person to check elderly relatives’ wills and insurance policies are to-hand and in order.
Level 4: This is Getting Really Serious Actually. Adverse weather could delay flights to skiing holidays.
Hunt explained, “In cold weather, keeping warm is essential for staying alive, especially for the very young, the very old or those with chronic conditions such as heart disease, asthma and benefit dependency”.
Hunt asked the public to keep an eye on elderly neighbours, and huff on them if they look a bit blue. “We should all be on the look-out for signs that something might be wrong: milk bottles left outside for a month, curtains drawn all week or a desperate elderly person frozen to the outside of your porch.”
Hunt said that the NHS’s long-term advice for the poor is to evolve into ‘fur-covered ice dwellers’ and hibernate. “But if it’s vital to keep an elderly relative alive now – perhaps a Grandchild Education Endowment Plan isn’t yet fully paid-up – then some imaginative measures might be called for.
“Close the windows and doors, do some star jumps or think about the colour orange. If all else fails, Tory party advice is to get your granny to slip into something more comfortable, such as a coma.”
Hunt insisted he was taking steps to look after his own elderly relatives, particularly the one who lives alone in their three-bedroom cottage in the heart of the Lake District with offroad parking and planning permission granted, viewing highly recommended.
“I’ve told them to heat just one room, preferably the one they’re in”, said Hunt. “Although she’ll struggle with that, since I nobbled the boiler. Who said I couldn’t ‘take care’ of the elderly?”