Soaring energy costs are being blamed for a huge rise in the number of people going to hospital with illnesses caused by having to live in cold homes.
The total going to A&E with circulation problems or respiratory diseases has leapt by nearly 110,000 in the past three years.
And Andy Burnham, the Shadow Health Secretary, will today link this 10% rise with the Government’s failure to help people with the crippling cost of living.
In a “state of the NHS” speech in Birmingham today, he will say: “These new figures show for the first time the effect on A&E of the cost-of-living crisis and rising energy bills.
“This is the tragic human cost of David Cameron’s failure to stand up to the energy companies.”
And he will argue that when people cannot afford to heat their homes, they are more likely to suffer from high blood pressure, heart attacks strokes and asthma and other breathing difficulties.
Mr Burnham will cite figures showing cases at A&E in England where the “primary diagnoses” were for circulatory disease or respiratory disease rose from 1,067,134 in 2009/10 to 1,176,353 last year.
Household energy bills have risen by an average of £300 a year since the 2010 General Election. All of the Big Six suppliers – British Gas, Npower, SSE, Scottish Power, E.on and EDF Energy – hiked prices last year, by an average of 6.8%, or £92 a year.
Mr Burnham will add: “The Government has allowed A&E to come under siege from all sides, to the point where it is now in danger of being overwhelmed.
“A&E today is becoming the last resort for millions of people who are struggling to cope with the cost-of-living crisis and cuts to community services. This explains why the current financial year is set to be the worst in A&E for at least a decade.
“NHS cuts... are pushing people needlessly to A&E. This has trapped the NHS in a vicious circle, with hospitals paying huge sums to staff agencies for short-term cover.
"Only Labour’s promise to freeze energy bills will end the scandal of cold homes and protect older people from poor health.”
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s spokeswoman claimed the figures could be explained by an increase in elderly people needing care.
She said: “Labour’s desperate campaign to run down Accident and Emergency departments is wearing thin.”
04 February 2014 The Mirror