HOUSEHOLDS in Wiltshire are being reminded to regularly visit vulnerable relatives, neighbours and friends after nearly 400 excess winter deaths were recorded in Wiltshire during 2016/17.

The warning comes as an even higher number expected for last winter once the full figures are released.

Those living in rural parts of the county are more likely to struggle to keep warm during the winter season because their houses tend to be older and less well insulated, making them harder to heat effectively.

Over 30 per cent of people living in these areas are over 65 and are often at greater risk of developing health problems, such as respiratory conditions, which are made worse by cold temperatures.

In response OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, is encouraging people to regularly check on older relatives and friends to ensure they are taking care of themselves over the colder months.

OFTEC has shared five top tips on things to look out for which could potentially save a life, as part of a free ‘Keeping warm this winter’ guide, which includes ensuring main rooms are heated to at least 21C, and making sure the heating comes on at the correct time.

Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, commented: “This time of year can be a real struggle for many people across Wiltshire, especially following the expensive festive period.

"As a result, some households resort to turning down their heating in an effort to save money.

“However, this puts people at greater risk of developing health complications, especially if they are older and more vulnerable.

"This is reflected in the large number of excess winter deaths seen in the county over recent years.

“With a high number of older and vulnerable people living in rural areas, it is more important than ever that we look out for our relatives, friends and neighbours to check they are keeping warm and their heating system is working correctly.

"This could be a regular visit or phone call to make sure they are ok.”

More information and advice can be found at www.oftec.org and the ‘Keeping warm this winter guide can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/KeepingWarmThisWinter.