Pledge to support a friend or neighbour this winter

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Last winter, about 31,000 people in England died as a result of cold weather. Most of these people were over 75 and many of these deaths could have been avoided.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of older people spend much of the winter alone and lonely. According to Age UK, in 2010 1 in 20 people in the UK aged 65 and over say they spent Christmas Day alone.

But it doesn't have to be this way.

The NHS’s Winter Friends campaign aims to get 100,000 people to sign a pledge to 'take time out this winter to look in on an elderly friend or neighbour to make sure they are warm and coping well'.

Everyone who signs the pledge will get free cold weather alerts and email tips throughout the winter to help them do their bit.

One of the first to sign the pledge is the actor and campaigner Joanna Lumley. She says that becoming a Winter Friend doesn't just help the elderly, but also brings great rewards to those that take part.

Miss Lumley said: “A little help really does go a long way. You will also find, I’m sure, that giving a bit of your time in this way is hugely rewarding. Older people can be physically frail, but they have a lifetime’s wisdom and experience to share.

“That’s why I’m proud to lend my support to the NHS Winter Friends Pledge. Please join me and together we can make sure this winter is a wonderful winter for everyone.”

Other prominent figures supporting the campaign include the actors Sir Tony Robinson, Stephen Fry and Olivia Colman, the television presenters Fiona Phillips and Jenni Falconer, and the rapper Plan B.