Following the cold festive period, households in County Durham are being reminded to regularly visit vulnerable relatives, neighbours and friends to check they are keeping warm and well.
The warning comes after 360 excess winter deaths were recorded in County Durham during 2016/17* with 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% 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.
1) Ensure main rooms are heated to at least 21C with other commonly used rooms kept at least 18C
2) Make sure the heating comes on at the correct time and radiators are turned off in unused rooms. You may also want to adjust the heating timers to match the weather conditions
3) Check that nothing is blocking radiators as this reduces effectiveness
4) If you use heating oil make sure there is plenty of oil in the tank. If it needs topping up, use a firm which is a member of the Federation of Petroleum Suppliers
5) Check the boiler has recently been serviced by an OFTEC (for oil or solid fuel) or GasSafe (for mains gas) registered technician who has checked it is working correctly and efficiently. If it does breakdown over winter, visit to find the nearest local registered technician
Malcolm Farrow from OFTEC, commented: “This time of year can be a real struggle for many people across County Durham, 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 and the ‘Keeping warm this winter guide can be downloaded at