Severe weather

Information last updated: 25 May 2016

On this page you will find information about:

The Cold Weather Plan for England

The Cold Weather Plan for England gives advice on preparing for the effects of winter weather on people’s health and was first published in 2011. There are too many avoidable deaths each winter in England primarily due to heart and lung conditions from cold temperatures rather than hypothermia. The reasons why more people die in winter are complex and interlinked with fuel poverty, poor housing and health inequalities as well as circulating infectious diseases, particularly flu and norovirus, and the extent of snow and ice. Cold related deaths represent the biggest weather-related source of mortality. The winter period not only sees a significant rise in deaths but also a substantial increase in illnesses..

The Cold Weather Plan for England helps to raise the public’s awareness of the harm to health from cold, and provides guidance on how to prepare for and respond to cold weather which can affect everybody’s health. It triggers actions in the NHS, public health, social care and other community organisations, to support vulnerable people who have health, housing or economic circumstances that increase their risk of harm. Strong local leadership and partnership working at all levels across sectors is therefore vital to tackle the range of causes and reduce the number of “excess” deaths that are observed each winter.

Find this year’s Cold Weather Plan for England on the gov.uk website alongside other useful documents:

  • Making the Case: why long-term strategic planning for cold weather is essential for health and wellbeing
  • Letter to local authorities, NHS England, and clinical leads of clinical commissioning groups – this details the changes to previous versions of the Cold Weather Plan
  • ‘Keep Warm Keep Well’ leaflet
  • Cold Weather Plan for England: Research and Literature Review

The website gov.uk website also has a number of action cards available, to reduce the risks to health from severe cold weather for:

  • Commissioners (for health and social care) and local authorities
  • Provider organisations
  • Frontline health and social care staff in frontline community and care facilities
  • GPs and practice staff
  • Individuals
  • Voluntary and community sector

The plan continues to be underpinned by the Cold Weather Alert service, which has been developed with the Met Office to alert key stakeholders to the likelihood of severe cold weather within different areas of England.

Cold Weather Alerts

To support the plan, the Met Office will issue Cold Weather Alerts from 1 November through the Christmas and New Year period to 31 March. There are five levels:

  • Level 0 (long term planning, all year)
  • Level 1 (winter preparedness and action, 1 November to 31 March)
  • Level 2 (severe winter weather is forecast – alert and readiness)
  • Level 3 (response to severe winter weather – severe weather action)
  • Level 4 (major incident – emergency response, declared by central government)

Find out what the current Cold Weather Alert level is in your area here.
General winter health advice is available on NHS Choices.

The Heatwave Plan for England

The Heatwave Plan for England is a plan intended to protect the population from heat-related harm to health by raising awareness of the negative health effects of severe heat and enabling services and the public to prepare and respond appropriately.  The Heatwave Plan and Heat Health Watch alert system were first developed following the Heatwave in 2003 when there was an estimated 2000 extra deaths in England.  A Heatwave Plan for England has been published annually, since 2004.  Since then there have been subsequent heat waves in England during 2006 and 2009. There has been a consistent agreement that the Plan continues to save lives.

The plan has been jointly agreed between NHS England, Public Health England, the Department of Health, the Local Government Association and other stakeholders.

The plan recommends a series of steps, to be taken throughout the year, to reduce the risks to health from heat for:

  • The NHS, local authorities, social care and other public agencies
  • Professionals working with people at risk
  • Individuals, community and voluntary sector

Find this year’s Heatwave Plan for England on the gov.uk website alongside other useful documents:

  • the Heatwave Plan for England
  • Making the Case: why long-term strategic planning for heatwaves is essential for health and wellbeing
  • information containing action cards for easy use by organisations, staff and the public
  • easy read and accessible versionsd accessible versions
  • Beat the heat: staying safe in hot weather – leaflet and poster
  • Beat the heat: keep cool at home – checklist

The plan continues to be underpinned by the Heat-Health Watch service, which has been developed with the Met Office to alert key stakeholders to the likelihood of severe hot weather within different areas of England.

Heat-Health Watch Alerts

To support the Plan, the Met Office will issue Heatwave Alerts from 1 June to 15 September each year. There are five levels:

  • Level 0 (long term planning, all year)
  • Level 1 (heatwave and summer preparedness programme, 1 June to 15 September)
  • Level 2 (heatwave is forecast – alert and readiness)
  • Level 3 (heatwave action)
  • Level 4 (major incident – emergency response, declared by central government)

Find out what the current Heat Health Watch level is in your area here.
General summer health advice is available on NHS Choices.

Flooding: advice for the public

Public Health England has re published useful advice to help people who may be affected by the flooding due to the current severe weather conditions.

Further advice can be found on the Environment Agency website and updated weather warnings are available on the Met Office web site.

People are urged not to use items such as BBQs and generators indoors or in enclosed spaces due to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning.