SOMERSET GPs are urging people to look out for elderly relatives, friends and neighbours over the winter.

Hundreds of people in Somerset died as a result of the cold last winter, most of them over 75.

The elderly, people with disabilities and those living alone are particularly vulnerable at this time of year, especially if they have a long-term condition such as chronic lung disease, heart disease or asthma.

They may also be feeling lonely and isolated if they are unable to leave the house, which can carry risks for their mental and physical health.

Dr Andrew Tresidder, Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group's GP safety lead, said: "It only takes a few minutes to drop in for a chat and a cup of tea with a neighbour.

"They may not have seen or spoken to anyone for days and it can really help to see a friendly face. You could even offer to help them get some shopping or pick up their prescription from the pharmacy.

"Cold weather can have serious health implications for elderly or vulnerable people, so it’s really important to check in on those who are most at risk at least once a week and more often during really cold spells.

"It’s also essential to make sure they are keeping warm by wearing appropriate clothing for the weather and heating their homes to at least 18°C to 21°C.

"Regular hot drinks and at least one hot meal a day can make all the difference. And try to encourage them to move around if they can.

"Older people have an increased risk of having a fall which could result in serious injury, as well as a loss of confidence.

"If a fall occurs when they are alone at home, they may not be able to get up or call for help. Their injury could worsen if it is not treated, and this could lead to a stay in hospital.

"Icy conditions are a big risk factor for falls so offering to assist elderly neighbours with gritting or clearing driveways and paths can be a great way to help."

Dr Tresidder said people should visit a pharmacy for advice at the first sign of a winter illness, while people over 65 should get their free flu jab.