The NHS has braced for an influx of patients during a heatwave as officials urge the public to be cautious
- The UK’s Health Security Agency imposes a yellow heat health alert for most of England
- The hottest temperature in the UK yesterday was 30.7C (87.3F) in West Sussex
- But experts have warned that the extreme weather is putting extra pressure on the NHS
Rising temperatures in the UK pose a “serious health risk”, experts have warned, amid fears that heatwave-related infections and illnesses will increase pressure on an already overburdened NHS.
Britain could enjoy its hottest day of the year yet, with temperatures expected to rise to 33°C after some areas entered an official heat wave for the first time since June.
But health experts fear that large numbers of the population, especially the elderly and those with dementia, will develop heat-related illnesses – increasing demand on NHS services.
NHS buildings are already ‘ill-equipped’ to deal with mercury rising to levels normally reserved for the early summer months, with hospitals frequently suffering overheating incidents, with some even having to cancel operations or close wards when temperatures soar.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has upgraded its heat health alert to yellow for every region of England except the North East, where there is a yellow alert.
The six-day alert, which began yesterday and will run until Sunday evening, warns of rising death rates and “significant impacts” on vulnerable people and the NHS.
Dr Adrian Boyle, chair of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, told MailOnline: “We know climate change is making our summers hotter, and society needs to recognize and be aware of the serious health risks posed by extreme heat.”
“Last summer we saw temperatures over 40 degrees Celsius and there were more than 3,000 heat-related deaths.
“Hot weather poses a particular risk to people who are frail or have dementia, who may be less able to respond to their body’s warning signs.
“People with mental ill health – particularly those taking antipsychotic medication – are also disproportionately affected, as are people experiencing homelessness who may not be able to find shelter or easy access to water.”
Read more: Heatwave warning for millions taking antidepressants as users share shocking photos of little-known but painful side effect meaning they could get blisters in the heat
He added: “Our advice is to make sure people check anyone who is older, or has health problems or frailties.
“Try to stay out of the heat as much as possible and stay hydrated by drinking plenty of non-alcoholic fluids.”
Dr Laila Mackay, director of policy at the NHS Federation, said: “Extreme weather could put additional pressure on the NHS in terms of demand and affect the health of some people.”
“Extreme heat or cold can also put additional stress on NHS buildings and properties that are old and often not equipped.
“Temperatures this summer haven’t reached extremes yet, but health leaders are still encouraging the public to stay safe in the sun and stay hydrated during the current warm weather,” he added.
One major concern is that heat stress is caused by the body’s inability to cool itself.
It can cause dizziness and excessive sweating and lead to heatstroke, which can be fatal.
The Met Office said areas in West Yorkshire, Cornwall, Devon and Wales reached heat wave criteria yesterday, and more areas are expected to be added to that list today.
While the hottest temperature recorded in the UK yesterday was 30.7C (87.3F) in West Sussex, meteorologists said a new record is likely either today or tomorrow.
About 13 weather stations have now designated this period as an official heat wave, which lasts for at least three consecutive days where daily maximum temperatures meet or exceed a heat wave temperature threshold — a figure that varies by region.
Autumn marked an unusually warm start after a disappointing summer when Britain experienced the sixth wettest July since records began.
A UKHSA spokesperson also told MailOnline today: ‘We may start to see some health impacts across the wider population, and an increase in health risks for individuals aged over 65 or those with pre-existing health conditions, including respiratory conditions. And the heart and blood vessels.” .
The UKHSA Bad Weather and Health Plan contains guidance for the NHS and care home managers or those looking after vulnerable people.
“It identifies key areas where the public sector, independent sector, voluntary sector, health and social care organizations and communities can work together to maintain and improve planning and response during periods of hot weather.”
Dr Agostino Souza, UKHSA Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection, 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 beware of those who are most at risk.” susceptible to the effects of heat.
“We advise you to check with older family members, friends or neighbours, and people with heart or lung disease.
“Staying hydrated and staying cool is crucial for everyone during hot weather, while enjoying the sun.”
If the hottest day in 2023 is achieved this week, it will be the first time since 2016 – and before that 50s – that the UK’s warmest day has occurred in September.
In addition, this year’s highest temperature occurred in September in only four years in the past century.
Read more: From avoiding coffee to eating spicy food: four surprising ways to stay cool as the UK prepares for the hottest day of the year
It comes as the Alzheimer’s Association also issued its own warning this morning about the effects of hot weather on people with dementia.
The charity said dehydration was a “common challenge” for those with dementia and memory problems, and advised families and carers could help by leaving cups or jugs of water on hand.
Sharing a drink with the person, leaving reminders to drink and offering foods with a high water content were among other key aids suggested.
Jelly drops or “water gummies” are another alternative way to help stay hydrated and help increase your daily water intake.
The colorful sweets, which are supported by the Alzheimer’s Association, are bite-sized, sugar-free sweets that are 95 percent water and added electrolytes.
Anna Smith, co-leader at Alzheimer’s Society, said: “People should thoroughly enjoy the beautiful weather we’re finally having, but it’s important to note that high temperatures can lead to serious health problems for people with dementia unless they take special prevention precautions.” Stay cool and well hydrated.
“People with dementia may forget to drink enough fluids and wear appropriate clothing. With temperatures rising this week, we urge families and carers to check on people with dementia to make sure they are staying hydrated, wearing light clothing and staying out of direct sunlight.
“Making a round to check on a neighbor, friend or family member with dementia can help keep them safe during hot weather.”
(tags for translation)health