Figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate that the number of excess deaths in England and Wales increased significantly from last year.
Indeed, the estimated 43,900 such deaths represented the highest number recorded since 1999.
The report produced by the ONS indicates that most of the deaths involve people aged over 75.
One of the primary contributors to these figures was the flu virus.
It was regrettable with regard to this issue that the influenza vaccine produced in 2015 was significantly less effective than those manufactured during previous years.
Another notable aspect of the figures is the fact that there were more deaths in women than men.
Commenting on the provisional statistics, Claudia Wells, at the ONS, acknowledged the importance of the flu virus in the lofty number of deaths: “A major cause behind the rise was the flu virus, with estimates showing that the flu vaccine was not as effective this winter compared to previous years. While the cold temperature is a factor, most of last winter was warmer than average.”
The report indicated that respiratory illnesses were the cause of death in around 40 per cent of all winter cases recorded.
In particular, experts suggest that the strain of flu which circulated during 2014 had a significant impact on older people.
This resulted in a large number of outbreaks in care homes, which led to a larger than usual number of admissions to intensive care.
It was noted some months back that the 34 per cent effectiveness of the flu vaccine for 2015 was likely to lead to an excess number of deaths over the winter period.
And Caroline Abrahams of Age UK emphasised that “behind the figures are many individual tragedies of older people dying needlessly before their time.”
However, it is notable that the large number of winter deaths was not unique to that United Kingdom.
The Department of Health suggested that as many as 15 other nations in Europe also suffered their largest number of winter deaths in the 21st century.
Commenting on the issue, the Department suggested that the cold weather plan that they had put in place had significantly reduced the number of cold-related illnesses and deaths.
Speaking on behalf of the Department of Health, a spokesperson stated: “Excess winter deaths can be due to a number of causes including cold snaps, flu and other respiratory infections. Flu is serious, causing severe illness and deaths in winter. It is vital that older people, pregnant women and those with a health condition get their flu jab this winter.