15 July 2022
A red heat warning has been issued for the first time ever over large parts of the UK for Monday 18 and Tuesday 19 of July. There are forecasts of temperatures reaching over 40 degrees Celsius.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has issued a Level Four heat health alert, this level means that heat illness may occur among the fit and healthy, not just high-risk groups.
This could not come at a worse time for our over-stretched emergency departments as heatwave events of this level come with increased presentations to Emergency Departments.
This will include direct heat illness like heat stroke and heat exhaustion as well as indirect heat illness including strokes, acute coronary symptoms and exacerbations of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease due to heat induced air pollution.
In light of the significant risk to patients waiting in ambulances during this extreme weather Trusts need to ensure a hospital wide plan is put into action to ensure patients are offloaded within 30 minutes. As set out by NHS England in their letter from 15 July, this is not the responsibility of Emergency Departments alone and will require system wide measures to ensure sufficient flow out of Emergency Departments in order to meet this target and reduce harm to patients.
Trusts must also ensure that their staff have easy access to cool areas in which to rest, support to take regular breaks and free access to cold water.
For staff working in Emergency Departments in the coming days please take a few moments to refresh your knowledge on managing heat exhaustion and stroke here: https://www.rcemlearning.co.uk/reference/heat-related-illness/ and follow the tips in the infographics below to ensure you stay as safe as possible in the extreme heat.
Extreme heatwaves like this are made more severe and more frequent due the climate crisis and, unfortunately this is likely to be the coolest summer for the foreseeable future.
At RCEM we are proud to be a leader in the healthcare system in working to achieve net zero carbon. In order to treat the root cause of these extreme weather events, we call for a renewed commitment to a just transition away from fossil fuels and to reach net zero as soon as we possibly can to ensure a safe and healthier future for all.