Heatwave deaths prompt call for summer weather risk programmes

The number of deaths during the summer heatwave has been a “wake-up
call” for social services departments, directors admitted this

The Office for National Statistics said there were 907 more deaths
in Britain in the week to 15 August than has been normal in the
past five summers. During that week temperatures soared above 35oC
in some parts of the country.

In France an estimated 10,000 people are thought to have died in
the heatwave and the French government is said to be considering
ending one of the country’s public holidays to finance extra
healthcare and welfare schemes for older people.

Although local authorities in the UK often have strategies to deal
with the effects on older people of cold weather, there is a lack
of similar support and planning in the summer.

Chairperson of the Association of Directors of Social Services
older people’s committee Glenys Jones said that the problem needed
to be resolved: “The whole country is geared up for winter not
summer so this has been a bit of a wake-up call. There is winter
pressures money, but those of us in social services have always
been aware that there is an August pressure as well.

“Any extreme in climate has an impact on those with conditions that
affect mobility or mental capacity and who live alone. So older
people are especially affected.

“We would expect that staff in contact with older people most at
risk would give good advice about drinking water and having access
to fresh air. It should almost be like a neighbourhood alert.”

Jane Alston, service manager for older people at Bournemouth
Council, said: “We do have a huge winter programme but because it
is so rare to have extremely hot weather there isn’t the equivalent
in summer. This isn’t something I’d thought about before. But I
will do now.”

A spokesperson for Age Concern said: “If heatwaves become more
common, all of us in contact with frail, vulnerable people will
need to be more vigilant in summer as in winter, to ensure services
are responsive to help anyone suffering heat-related problems.

“In terms of preventive work, we must ensure people are aware of
how to cope with hot weather and the risks it can pose.”

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