HUNDREDS of people died needlessly over winter in Lancashire, new figures reveal.

Government data shows there were 650 excess winter deaths in the county in 2015/16.

More than one third (230) of these deaths were in East Lancashire, analysis from the Office for National Statistics shows (ONS) shows.

Of the boroughs in East Lancashire, Rossendale had the highest number of excess winter deaths at 70.

Meanwhile, Burnley, Pendle and the Ribble Valley all had 40 excess winter deaths, followed by Blackburn with 30 and Hyndburn with 10.

And the ONS data shows figures for last winter (2016/17) could be even higher when they are released.

Excess winter deaths are defined as the difference between the number of deaths in the winter months (December to March) compared with the previous (August to November) and following (April to July) three months.

Campaigners told the Lancashire Telegraph the figures were a ‘disgrace’ and blamed cuts to social care, poorly insulated homes and fuel poverty for the deaths.

David Ward, of older people’s charity Age UK, said: “There is a huge problem with fuel poverty across the country and in Lancashire.

“The living conditions of elderly people and poorly insulated homes are certainly a factor in the rise, as is loneliness.

“There are more lonely people who may feel isolated and who have no one to go to for support and advice if there are homes are damp.

“These figures are shocking, however.”

Blackburn’s Labour MP Kate Hollern said: “It’s very sad to see all these unnecessary winter deaths.

“The Government has got to take responsibility for the cuts in adult social care and to the NHS, which have left the elderly without the support they need.

“Having to balance the need to eat with putting the heating on can also put an extra strain on people.

“It’s an absolute disgrace and needs addressing.”

Pendle’s Tory MP Andrew Stephenson said: “East Lancashire has a very old housing stock which can lead to poorly insulated homes.

“I would also encourage people to switch their energy provider if they can get cheaper tariffs.”

Malcolm Farrow, from OFTEC, which represents the oil heating industry, said: “The Government’s statistics reveal that, once again, a shockingly high number of people have died unnecessarily.

“There is clearly still much more to do to ensure the most vulnerable in society are kept warm and well during winter.

“This is an expensive time of year and many struggling families may turn their heating down to save money – even though this can put their health at risk.

“While there is some good news for households on oil heating who are benefiting from sustained low oil prices and the cheapest fuel bills, it is essential that all households are made aware of the support available to them which is why we have produced our free winter guide.”

OFTEC have released a ‘Keeping warm this winter’ guide, which recommends keeping the main living room heated to a temperature of at least 21 degrees and adjusting the timers on your thermostat as the weather changes.

Bleeding your radiators to ensure the heating system is running efficiently and turning off radiators in rooms you are not using is also recommended to save money.

To view the full guide, visit the OFTEC website

Age UK’s advice line can also be contacted on 0300 303 1234

The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy were unavailable for comment.