Thousands of people died in the UK from cold weather-related conditions last year, new figures show.
Most of the victims were aged over 75 and had medical conditions, such as heart problems, which were worsened by winter temperatures.
Date from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that 31,100 perished during 2012/13, an increase of 29 per cent on the previous winter.
There was a sharp rise in female deaths, up from 13,610 in 2011/12 to 18,000. Male winter fatalities increased from 10,590 to 13,100.
The north-west of England had the highest mortality rate and London had the lowest, a turnaround from the previous year when the largest number of winter deaths occurred in the capital.
Older people leaving off their heating because they fear high energy bills was cited as one of the reasons for the increase.
Dot Gibson, general secretary of the National Pensioners' Convention, said the death rate is a "national scandal" which the government appears unable to rectify.
"Making sure older people have got a well-insulated warm home and the income to pay the fuel bills isn’t green crap. It’s what a decent society should do," she stated.
"How can colder Scandinavian countries avoid this annual toll while we simply wring our hands?
"The government needs to roll out a more effective programme to insulate homes, build more suitable properties for older people, raise the winter fuel allowance and tackle the excessive profits of the big six energy companies."
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has this week announced an extra £250 million in funding for accident and emergency units.
This should provide an extra 2,500 beds and bring in 3,000 extra staff.
A further £150 million has been earmarked for helping other health trusts deal with the pressures of winter.
Luciana Berger, Labour's shadow health secretary, said a third of the deaths are a result of people living in homes which are too cold and the coalition fight against profiteering energy companies.
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