UP TO 400 more elderly and sick Scots will die this winter due to fuel price increases, campaigners have warned.

The NHS is also likely to face increased pressure on some departments as a result of the energy price rise set to hit the country from next month.

Scots will be facing higher energy bills than the UK average – an estimated £375 rise compared to around £250 elsewhere, and an additional 150,000 are expected to be plunged into fuel poverty.

Combined with the larger proportion of homes in Scotland with low energy efficiency ratings, or solely reliant on electricity, the increase has created a “perfect storm” for those struggling to get by.

Energy Action Scotland (EAS) has warned that the increase in costs, the removal of the £20 uplift to universal credit, the end of the furlough scheme and the rise in food prices could push many people over the edge.

Hard up citizens may also face another financial blow next April, when they are hit with a hike to their National Insurance contributions and another rise of up to 12% predicted on energy bills.

The growing furore around the energy crisis has seen debates rage in Westminster and Holyrood over the past several weeks, with UK Government ministers trying to reassure the public there is no danger of the lights going out or ovens going off.

However the crisis will have other impacts, campaigners say, and are calling for a whole package of new measures and improvements to existing schemes to ensure those currently struggling to get by do not face complete destitution in the months to come.

Frazer Scott, chief executive of EAS, said: “Winter mortality figures are always very telling.

“About 2,000 more people die in the winter than they do in the summer. A lot of those deaths are related to incidences of respiratory illness or coronary events, and other things that are exacerbated by cold, damp homes. That's what happens in the winter generally.

“This winter, there are more homes that are going to be colder, or damper, or just simply cold for longer. It's going to have a negative impact on people's health and wellbeing. It might be very hard to draw a linear relationship between the price increase and what might happen. But, if you could imagine that there was such a kind of linear relationship is probably 200-400 additional deaths related to these price increases.”

Mr Scott also explained that the fuel poverty costs the NHS around £80-100m a year, but this could rise further in the coming months as more people attend hospital for respiratory or other cold-related illnesses.

He said: “There's nothing to help people and they live in cold, damp homes…What do you expect to happen other than more people will lose their lives this winter than would otherwise?

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“I think that's probably one of the starkest bits. It will put pressure on the National Health Service too because there will be many people who will have hospital admissions that perhaps may not otherwise.”

Mr Scott’s warning come as half a dozen energy companies have gone bust in the past month, leaving more than 1million customers in limbo while they transfer to another supplier.

Two other firms have stopped accepting new customers in an attempt to survive the current turmoil.

EAS is among dozens of charities, and hundreds of MPs calling for the UK Government, and the Scottish Government, to funnel additional cash it will receive as a result of the increased energy prices into support schemes for those struggling.

The SNP, Labour, the Liberal Democrats and some senior Conservatives have also called on Westminster to U-turn over its plans to scrap the cut to Universal Credit.

Alan Brown MP, the SNP’s energy spokesman told the Herald on Sunday that the Scottish Government had already implemented several schemes, such as the Scottish child payment and the Child Winter Heating Assistance scheme, but added: “I understand calls for the Scottish Government to do even more, but with a fixed budget, they have a huge juggling act.”

He added: “It is horrific to think that more people will die early because of this cost of living and energy crisis that has been created by Westminster.

“However, that is the shocking reality, and more people will suffer health related issues due to damp and cold because they cannot afford to heat their properties.”

The MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun added that along with immediately reversing the Universal Credit cut, the UK Government should “redistribute” tax receipts raised as a result of the increased prices.

He explained: “The Tories had said there would be cheaper energy bills post-Brexit and that they would cut VAT. Now the reality is that VAT receipts are increasing on the back of our energy bills.

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“As petrol prices increase, the UK Government has received more money in fuel duty and of course they are now receiving more oil and gas revenues than expected. It surely isn’t too much to ask that this extra revenue is recirculated as a support package for those who need it the most? We need to remain open to actual windfall taxes as well where some companies may be making excessive profits.”

Shadow Scotland Secretary Ian Murray said the estimate that 200-400 more people will die as a result of the energy price rises “should shame us all.”

He added: “This is the reality of the looming cost of living crisis created by government decisions – it will put hundreds of lives at risk and plunge many more into poverty.

“No-one should be forced to choose between heating and eating, but for many that is what lies ahead this winter.

“Neither government can wash their hands of this – both have a moral obligation to use all the powers at their disposal to avoid catastrophe this winter.”

Scotland's Social Justice Secretary Shona Robison said: “We are already taking a wide range of actions within our powers to help people who are on low incomes and support them through the winter. Earlier this week, for example, we announced plans to extend Child Winter Heating Assistance to reach 5,000 additional families.

“Our efforts will be undermined by the UK Government’s plans to remove more than £1000 per year in Universal Credit payments from the lowest income households. Many of those who will lose out are unable to work due to ill health and disability and more than a third of UC recipients are already in work but rely on the payments to make ends meet.

“We continue to call on the UK Government to reconsider this unjustifiable decision and do more to protect the most vulnerable.”

The UK Government did not respond to request for comment.