Extreme heat warning

An amber extreme heat warning covering must of the country has been issued by the Met Office. Coming almost exactly one year on from the first ever amber warning, this extreme heat  warning which was originally only in force for Sunday 17th July has now been extended to take in Monday 18th and Tuesday 19th July 2022.

With daytime temperatures climbing into the 30s and night time temperatures also higher than normal, the amber weather warning should not be taken lightly. The Met Office warns that ‘population-wide adverse health effects are likely to be experienced’ which could potentially lead to serious illness or danger to life. Importantly, it’s not just those who are already seen as vulnerable who may be affected.

Accordingly, the Met Office has reiterated the standard Government advice that 999 services should be used in emergencies only. However, it is worth noting that even before the amber heat warning was issued, all ten ambulance services across England had already declared a critical incident meaning that response times are likely to be stretched.

So what can health providers do to help their patients at this time. It is worth noting that the Met Office warn that transport delays are likely, with road closures and cancellations to rail travel expected due to the effects of heat on infrastructure. Even moderate delays, the Met Office say,   could lead to ‘significant welfare issues’ for those stuck in traffic or on trains. And it won’t just be patients affected with staff too being potentially caught up in the delays.

With the standard advice being not to travel unless necessary it may therefore be worth considering a review of appointments booked for the days affected. This, with a view to rearranging appointment times or days, particularly for the most vulnerable patients.

Admittedly there will be some appointments which should not be delayed. But is there any scope for being a little more flexible on times, perhaps shifting appointments due to take place in the hottest parts of the day to earlier in the morning or later in the evening? Remember, excess heat can not only lead to irritability it can also affect our ability to concentrate on mental or skilled tasks. So moving appointments may not only help your patients as they travel to your practice, it might also help to ensure that your service to patients is not affected by the heat.

 And whilst it may be too late to check that any air conditioning is working well, it might be worth ensuring that staff and patients have access to chilled water and a cool area within the building. This cool area could also be used for patients who wish to delay their journey home until the hottest part of the day has passed.

Finally, make sure that your people are aware of and can react to and appropriately treat the symptoms of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. The link to the NHS advice on these conditions can be found here. [1]

[1] https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/