As Britain bakes under record-breaking heat, the health service’s chief executive has paid tribute to staff going above and beyond to keep people safe and healthy.
‘Hydration stations’ in London’s hospitals, free ice creams and lollies for staff, ‘water buses’ for patients, and NHS staff weather stations are among the range of innovative solutions put in place as the country deals with mercury-busting weather.
NHS boss Simon Stevens praised the skill, compassion and resilience of doctors, nurses and other NHS staff working flat out despite the intense heat, saying that their efforts demonstrated “the absolute best” of the NHS.
Among the dozens of examples of health teams working to keep services running and the public healthy are:
- Hospital bosses across the country have helped staff keep cool by paying for their teams to get free ice creams or lollies when on their break, including Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals NHS Trust, University Hospitals North Midlands, Cambridge University Hospitals and Wrightington Wigan and Leigh Hospitals.
- John Gardner, a health care assistant in Worcestershire used his own personal weather station to post local heat alerts and coping advice to patients in the community.
- Hospitals in London setting up ‘hydration stations’ – pop-up stalls and stands to serve patients free water, as well as ‘drinks buses’ for patients being taken around wards to help people get the right amount of fluids.
- In Liverpool, the drive to keep people healthy didn’t stop at the hospital door, as staff put together a guide to free water refill spots around the city, so people can stay well while out and about after leaving hospital.
- Sinead Doherty, a clinical nurse at the Whittington Health Trust, looked at her team’s appointments for the day and invited parents with toddlers due to come in earlier, so they can avoid going out later in the day when the heat is strongest.
- In Croydon, staff gave out free water to people waiting in A&E to ensure those who are the most sick also keep hydrated when it might not be their priority.
Simon Stevens, chief executive for the NHS in England said: “Once again our staff – the country’s Heat Heroes – have risen to a challenge and shown just why our doctors, nurses and other NHS staff are the envy of the world.
“It is thanks to their continued hard work and ability to go above and beyond the call of duty, we are able to continue to look after our patients to the highest possible standard.
“So I’m sure the public will once again say ‘thank you’ to everyone working this week for your dedication and creativity, which is showing the absolute best of the NHS.”
The NHS is there for its patients in adverse weather, with more options than ever before. For those feeling the heat, the NHS 111 phone and online service can give advice on self care or where best to go for treatment, as can local pharmacists.
Everyone is also urged to check in on vulnerable neighbours and the elderly to make sure they are safe and well.
While the effects of too much sun can affect anyone, some are more at risk to the danger of hot weather including:
- Young children, babies, and the elderly, especially those over 75;
- People with serious chronic conditions and mobility problems such as Parkinson’s disease or those who have had a stroke, and;
- People on certain medications, including those that affect sweating and temperature control.
Earlier this week, the NHS published ten top tips for staying cool in the hot weather:
- Shut windows and pull down the shades when it is hotter outside. You can open the windows for ventilation when it is cooler.
- If you’re vulnerable to the effects of heat, avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day (11am and 3pm).
- Keep rooms cool by using shades or reflective material outside the windows. If this isn’t possible, use light-coloured curtains and keep them closed (metallic blinds and dark curtains can make the room hotter).
- Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.
- Drink plenty of fluids and avoid excess alcohol – water, lower-fat milks and tea and coffee are good options.
- Listen to alerts on the radio, TV and social media about keeping cool.
- Plan ahead to make sure you have enough supplies, such as food, water and any medications you need.
- Identify the coolest room in the house so you know where to go to keep cool.
- Wear loose, cool clothing, and a hat and sunglasses if you go outdoors.
- Check up on friends, relatives and neighbours who may be less able to look after themselves.
Ruth May, chief nursing officer for England, said: “Everyone can take simple steps to avoid fun in the sun turning in to a holiday in hospital.
“As millions of families kick off the long summer break, it’s really important to take common sense precautions and follow our NHS top tips like drinking plenty of water, using high-factor sunscreen and taking allergy medicine where it’s needed.
“The NHS will be there always for anyone who needs it, but everyone can help by checking in on vulnerable friends and neighbours, while making use of the free, convenient and helpful phone and online NHS services for minor illnesses, to help frontline staff provide care for those in emergency and serious need.”
“People should talk before they walk and join the hundreds of thousands getting fast and free advice on the best course of action for them from the NHS.uk website or 111 phone line.”
To find out more, search ‘NHS hot weather’ online.