Health & Lifestyle

Health heat warning: NHS braced for influx of patients during heatwave as officials urge public to be cautious

  • UK Health Security Agency imposes amber heat health alert on most of England
  • Hottest UK temperature recorded yesterday was 30.7C (87.3F) in West Sussex 
  • But experts warned that extreme weather puts added pressure on the NHS 

Soaring temperatures in the UK pose a ‘serious health risk’, experts have warned amid fears heatwave-related injuries and illnesses will pile pressure on the already overstretched NHS.

Britain could enjoy the hottest day of the year so far today as temperatures are expected to soar to 33C (91F) after some areas entered an official heatwave for the first time since June.

But health experts fear great swathes of the population, especially the elderly and those with dementia, will be hit by heat-related sickness — increasing demand for NHS services.

NHS buildings are already ‘ill-equipped’ to deal with the mercury rising to levels normally reserved for the early summer months, with hospitals frequently experiencing overheating incidents, with some even being forced to cancel operations or shut wards when temperatures soar. 

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has upgraded its heat health alert to amber across every region of England apart from the North East, where a yellow alert is in place.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has upgraded its heat health alert to amber across every region of England apart from the North East, where a yellow alert is in place

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has upgraded its heat health alert to amber across every region of England apart from the North East, where a yellow alert is in place

Britain could enjoy the hottest day of the year so far today as temperatures are expected to soar to 33C (91F) after some areas entered an official heatwave for the first time since June. But health experts fear great swathes of the population, especially the elderly and those with dementia, will be hit by heat-related sickness — increasing demand for NHS services. Pictured, another day of soaring temperatures brings people to Bournemouth beach in Dorset today

Britain could enjoy the hottest day of the year so far today as temperatures are expected to soar to 33C (91F) after some areas entered an official heatwave for the first time since June. But health experts fear great swathes of the population, especially the elderly and those with dementia, will be hit by heat-related sickness — increasing demand for NHS services. Pictured, another day of soaring temperatures brings people to Bournemouth beach in Dorset today

The six-day alert, which began yesterday and will run until Sunday night, warns of higher death rates and ‘significant impacts’ on vulnerable people and the NHS.

Dr Adrian Boyle, president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told MailOnline: ‘We know that climate change is making our summers hotter, and society needs to acknowledge and be alive to the serious health risk that extreme heat presents.

‘Last summer we saw temperatures in excess of 40 degrees Celsius and there were more than 3,000 excess deaths associated with the heat.

‘Hot weather is of particular risk to people who are frail or suffering from dementia who may be less able to respond to their body’s own warning signs.

‘People experiencing mental ill health – especially those taking anti-psychotic medication – are also disproportionately affected, similarly people experiencing homelessness who may not be able to find shelter or easy access to water.’

He added: ‘Our advice would be to ensure that people check on anyone who is older, has existing health problems or frailties.

‘Try to stay out of the heat as much as possible and keep hydrated by drinking lots of non-alcoholic fluids.’

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: ‘Extreme weather can put added pressure on the NHS in terms of demand and affect the health of some people. 

‘Extreme heat or cold can also put additional pressure on often antiquated and ill-equipped NHS buildings and estates.

‘Temperatures this summer have not yet reached extremes, but health leaders would still encourage the public to stay safe in the sun and keep hydrated during the current warm weather.’

One major concern, heat exhaustion is triggered by the body being unable to cool itself down.

It can cause dizziness, excessive sweating and lead to potentially fatal heat stroke. 

The Met Office said areas in West Yorkshire, Cornwall, Devon and Wales hit heatwave criteria yesterday, with more regions expected to be added to that list today.

While the hottest UK temperature recorded yesterday was 30.7C (87.3F) in West Sussex, forecasters said a new record is likely either today or tomorrow.

Some 13 weather stations have now marked this period as an official heatwave, which is at least three days in a row with daily maximum temperatures meeting or exceeding the heatwave temperature threshold — a figure which varies by region.

It has seen autumn begin in an unseasonably warm fashion after a disappointing summer when Britain endured its sixth wettest July since records began. 

A spokesperson for UKHSA also told MailOnline today: ‘We may begin to see some health impacts across the wider population, and an increase in risk to health for individuals aged over 65 years or those with pre-existing health conditions, including respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.

‘The UKHSA Adverse Weather and Health Plan has guidance for the NHS and care home managers or those who look after vulnerable people. 

‘It outlines the key areas where the public sector, independent sector, voluntary sector, health and social care organisations and local communities can work together to maintain and improve planning and response during spells of hot weather.’

Dr Agostinho Sousa, head of extreme events and health protection at UKHSA, added: ‘Many of us will welcome the hot weather over the coming days, but it is important to take sensible precautions while enjoying the sun and look out for those who are more vulnerable to the effects of heat.

‘We advise you to check on older family members, friends, or neighbours and those with heart or lung conditions.

‘Staying hydrated and keeping cool is crucial for everyone during hot weather, while enjoying the sun.’

If the hottest day of 2023 is achieved this week, it would be the first time since 2016 — and before that the 1950s — that the UK’s warmest day of the year has happened in September.

In addition, the highest temperature of the year has happened in September in just four years over the last century.

It comes as the Alzheimer’s Society also issued its own warning this morning of the effects of hot weather on people living with dementia. 

For those living with dementia and memory problems, dehydration is a ‘common challenge’, the charity said and advised families and carers could help by leaving glasses or jugs of water within easy reach.

Sharing a drink with the person, leaving reminders to drink and providing high water content foods, were among other key aids suggested. 

Jelly Drops, or ‘water sweets’ are another alternative way to help stay hydrated and help boost daily water intake. 

The colourful sweets, supported by Alzheimer’s Society, are bite-sized, sugar-free sweets containing 95 per cent water and added electrolytes.

Anna Smith, head of involvement at Alzheimer’s Society, said: ‘People should absolutely enjoy the nice weather we’re finally having, but it’s important to note that high temperatures can lead to severe health problems for people with dementia unless they take special precautions to keep cool and well-hydrated.

‘People with dementia may forget to drink enough fluids and wear suitable clothing. As the temperatures rise this week, we are urging families and carers to check in on people with dementia to make sure they are staying hydrated, wearing light clothes and keeping out of direct sun.

‘Popping round to check on a neighbour, friend or family member with dementia can help keep them safe during the hot weather.’


Read More: World News | Entertainment News | Celeb News

Daily M

Related posts

Citing rising COVID cases, these US hospital systems have now reinstated mask mandates

BBC Brk News

AI could be used to reduce waiting times in A&E, research suggests

BBC Brk News

The line of cancer patients waiting more than 60 days for treatment would stretch from London to Cardiff, campaigners say as they march on Parliament

BBC Brk News

Leave a Comment