Climate change means that heatwaves are likely to become more common in England. In preparation for this The Department of Health has published a 'Heatwave Plan'.
Extreme heat over a period of time is dangerous to everyone, but when temperatures remain extraordinarily high it can be particularly dangerous for vulnerable groups of people such as:
The Heatwave Plan and information is aimed at members of the public, carers and health & social care professionals to help them identify individuals at particular risk and how best to manage and avoid the effects of a heatwave.
The plan outlines the procedures for relevant public bodies to ensure accurate monitoring of heat related illnesses. This includes collaboration with NHS Direct and GPs to monitor the daily rate of heat related calls and consultations taking place throughout the hot weather.
Four levels of alert and action have been identified for the NHS and other public bodies that will be triggered by the monitoring system.
Level 1 is for raising awareness of heat effects on health with practical advice on keeping cool. Level 4 would be in used in an emergency where the severity or duration of the heatwave poses serious dangers to health. Local social services and Primary Care Trusts are asked to identify those people most at risk so that they can be assessed for any additional care and support that they may need.
Advice is available from the NHS Choices: Summer Health - Heatwave Advice web page. Practical advice is provided, such as:
The advice is also directed at those involved in delivering care in the community, including those caring for frail, older people in nursing and residential homes. They need to ensure that basic practical measures are taken, ensuring that south facing windows can be shaded, that the fridge is working and that proper support is available in the event of a heatwave.
A copy of the Heatwave Plan is available from the NHS web site: