The significant reduction in additional winter deaths from 2018 2019 has been welcomed by the national charity for older people.

However, Age Scotland has cautioned against complacency as previous spikes could be linked to extreme cold weather.

New figures released by National Records of Scotland show there was a 57 per cent seasonal decrease in additional deaths between December 2018 and March 2019 compared to the previous year.

The spike in additional winter deaths the previous year had been described as “staggering” by Age Scotland. The rise is likely to be linked to the extreme cold weather over that period, which included the “Beast from the East”.

Age Scotland believes that this year's reduction can, in part, be attributed to a milder winter and is warning that figures could rebound unless action is taken to address the underlying causes of the deaths.

The charity's head of policy Adam Stachura said: “On the face of it this significant reduction in additional winter deaths is good news and when compared to the previous year where the most common cause of death was pneumonia and flu they are now considerably lower. 

“However, the two spikes in additional winter deaths over the last decade seem to have coincided with extremely cold weather which means that it is vitally important to ensure that older people, particularly those on low income and in poor health, are better prepared to stay warm and vaccinated against the flu.

He continued: “This year's flu vaccine awareness campaign already appears to be doing a good job in boosting take up but it is important that people do book these in with their GP practice as soon as possible." 

The charity is also calling for more work to be done to ensure that older people have homes which are properly insulated and suitably warm in extreme cold weather, that the poorest pensioner households have enough income to use their heating and afford hot food, and have all received the flu vaccine as early as possible.

It is estimated that more than 120,000 households in Scotland were not claiming the pension credit benefit which they were entitled to, which meant they also missed out on weekly £25 Cold Weather Payments. The annual sum of unclaimed pension credit in Scotland was nearly £332 million last year. 

Age Scotland research has also highlighted that 6 in 10 single pensioner households struggle to pay their energy bills.

Age Scotland is also encouraging any older person, especially those on a low state pension, to call the Age Scotland helpline on 0800 12 44 222 for a free benefit and entitlement check to make sure they are not missing out on Pension Credit.