notice of life-threatening weather has been announced. The
Heat-Health Watch will operate until 15 September and is
designed to give information to those who are most vulnerable during
Met Office forecasts will trigger levels of response from the
Department of Health, NHS and other social care bodies when certain
criteria are met. Advice and information can then be given to the
public and health and social care professionals, in particular those
working with vulnerable groups.
Climate change means heatwaves are likely to become more common in
the UK. The evidence is strong, that abnormally high temperatures
over more than a couple of days causes 'extra' deaths and timely
warnings and preventative measures can reduce these. Statistics show
that the rise in mortality follows the rise in temperature almost
immediately. Being prepared followed by timely action is crucial when
warnings are issued.
Region Day Maximum (Deg C) Night minimum (Deg C)
London 32 18
South East 31 16
South West 30 15
Eastern 30 15
Wales 30 15
West Mids 30 15
East Mids 30 15
North West 30 15
Yorks & Humber 29 15
North East 28 15
Above figures are threshold day and night temperatures as defined by
region. These temperatures could have significant effect on health if
reached on at least two consecutive days.
Level 1 Awareness - Minimum state of vigilance, general level of
preparedness is enhanced
Level 2 Alert - Triggered as soon as the Met Office forecast
threshold temperatures being reached in any one region at least three
Level 3 Heatwave - Triggered as soon as Met Office confirms
threshold temperatures have been reached in any one region or more
Level 4 Emergency - Reached when the heatwave is so severe and/or
prolonged that its effects extend outside health and social care
A leaflet is being distributed by Dept of Health, which gives simple
advice on what to do in the event of a prolonged heatwave. These will
available through GP practices, Pharmacies, NHS Direct Call centres,
Walk-in centres, Citizen Advice Bureaux, Hospitals, Health Promotion
Units, Care Homes and others.
Temperatures across much of the UK over the next few days are
forecast to reach 28 to 30 Deg C. Met Office and health officials are
in contact and preparing for an early use of this new service to the
- During the period 4 to 13 August 2003, there was an estimated 2,070
'excess deaths' in England associated with the heatwave (a 17%
- Met Office forecasts will originate from Met Office Exeter
At-risk groups include:
- Older people
- Babies and young children
- People will mental health problems
- People on certain medication
- People will serious chronic conditions such as breathing and heart
- People who already have a high temperature from an infection
- People who use alcohol and illicit drugs
- People with mobility problems
- People who are physically active, for example manual workers and
sports men and women
DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH
CHIEF MEDICAL OFFICER PUBLISHES HEATWAVE PLAN
Chief medical officer Liam Donaldson, has today published a
contingency plan to be used in the event of a major heatwave this
summer or in future years.
The experience across Northwest Europe last summer, together with
predicted climate changes has prompted the need for a national plan
to become a standard part of resilience planning. It is recognised
that when preventative measures are followed in hot weather, the
number of heat related deaths are reduced.
Sir Liam said:
'Having a heatwave plan ensures that the public and organisations who
are involved in providing health and social care services know what
actions to take should temperatures rise over a continued period.
Although severe heatwaves are uncommon in England, it is particularly
important that vulnerable people including the elderly, babies and
young children take the necessary precautions to avoid serious harm
through heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
'Timely preventive measure can reduce excess deaths. In contrast to
deaths associated with cold snaps in winter the risk in mortality
follows very sharply, within one or two days of the temperature
rising. This means that by the time a heatwave starts the window of
opportunity for effective action is very short indeed. It is
therefore crucial that we are properly prepared for this situation.'
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
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 can be
assessed for any additional care and support that they may need.
The plan also provides for advice to be given directly to the public
about how they can help themselves. A leaflet called 'Heatwave - a
guide to looking after yourself' will be distributed nationally and
gives practical advice such as:
- If a heatwave is forecast, try and plan your day in a way that
allows you to stay out of the heat.
- If you can, avoid going out in the hottest part of the day (11am -
- If you must go out stay in the shade. Wear a hat and light loose
fitting clothes, preferably cotton. If you will be outside for some
time, take plenty of water with you.
- Take cool showers or baths and splash yourself several times a day
with cold water, particularly your face and the back of your neck.
- Eat as you normally would. Try to eat more cold food, particularly
salads and fruit, which contain water.
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.