As the UK heatwave continues, Dr Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, reflects on the effects of recent high temperatures across the UK and warns of further strain on the NHS.
“There was an increased pressure both on emergency departments and the number of admissions numbers during the main part of the heatwave.
“Previous studies in America have shown that pressure due to heat-related conditions can last up to eight days after the temperature drops from the highest levels.
“The overall numbers may not turn out to be massive as the effect was not present for months but the pressure was real and felt at the frontline.
“Heatwaves causing dehydration can lead to many issues, especially in the frail elderly, causing dizziness and falls through to an increased risk of infections (particularly urinary), heart attacks and strokes.
“The other heat-related issue is air quality the can really affect those with respiratory conditions such as asthma or COPD. This would have been much more prevalent in big cities
“I would not be surprised at all if an effect on mortality is shown. In Aug 2003 there were roughly 2,000 extra deaths attributed to the heatwave and again it was in the over 75s and those in south east England (mostly London).
“Temperatures this weekend are going to be even higher than before with even more risks of illness and death and considerable strain on the NHS staff working in often intolerable conditions.
“Compounding the heat is the fact that this is prime holiday season and there is little slack in the system regarding staff numbers as this is traditionally the time we have to recharge ahead of winter.”