Concerns raised over A&E capacity in Wales during extreme heat
Concerns have been raised over A&E capacity and patient welfare during the extreme heat predicted for the coming week.
With temperatures in Wales predicted to reach over 35 degrees and possibly 40 plus in the Marches border regions, there is a fear A&E departments could be overwhelmed and patients could be left waiting in the heat.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds MS has written to the Welsh Health Minister to highlight the issue.
She said: “The NHS in Wales is already under great stress, even before COVID and the extreme heat warning.
“While we all of course have a personal responsibility to do our bit and avoid placing unnecessary strain on the NHS at this time by staying hydrated and taking sensible precautions against the heat, but it is also important that the government and Welsh health boards take action to mitigate against potential risks to patient safety.
“A&E patients are regularly having to wait hours in ambulances outside busy hospitals or in corridors inside hospitals.
“Obviously, in the extreme heat, this would raise significant concerns for patient welfare.
“We recognise the pressures the extreme heat will not only have on patients, but also on medical and support workers.
“In the bigger picture, the extent of the extreme heat predicted shows the terrifying impact climate change is having on our lives.
“We must continue to go further and faster to work towards a zero-carbon economy and to put in place mitigation measures, for example, increased tree coverage in urban areas.”
The Welsh Ambulance Service is urging the public to take precautions ahead of the hot weather forecast for this week.
Warm weather generates an increase in calls to people with breathing difficulties, and with 999 demand already high, and Covid-19 infections continuing to rise, the Trust is asking the public to take extra precautions to reduce pressure on the service.
Lee Brooks, the Trust’s Executive Director of Operations, said: “We had almost 2,000 calls to 999 on Sunday alone, which is roughly one call every minute.
“We expect demand to remain high with the increase in temperature, so we need the public’s help to ensure that the pressures we face are not exacerbated by the weather.
“Hot weather means your body has to work harder to keep its core temperature to normal levels, and this puts extra strain on your heart, lungs and kidneys.
“This means that you can be at greater risk if you have a pre-existing heart or respiratory condition, like asthma or angina.
“It’s really important to keep cool and stay hydrated, and if you’re out and about, please look after yourself and those with you.
“If you do fall victim to the sun, take one of our NHS 111 Wales symptom checkers for bites and stings, breathing difficulties, hay fever and sunburn – it’ll help you determine the best course of action.”
Public Health Wales has advised that prolonged periods of extremely hot weather pose serious health risks and excessive exposure to high temperatures can kill.
Those most at risk include older people, very young children and people with pre-existing medical conditions.
PHW has offered the following advice to the general public:
Stay out of the heat
- Try to stay indoors, especially between midday and 3pm
- Avoid strenuous outdoor activities such as sport, DIY or gardening. If this is not possible, do it during the cooler parts of the day
- Use sunscreens or sun blocks to help prevent sunburn
- Cover up with a t-shirt or other loose-fitting clothes
- Wear a hat to shade your head and sunglasses to protect your eyes
- Cool down
- Drink plenty of water, at least eight glasses a day. Avoid alcohol, tea or coffee as they can make you dehydrated
- Take a cool bath or shower, or splash your face with cold water to cool down
Keep your environment cool
- Turn off non-essential lights and electrical equipment – they generate heat
- Keep indoor plants and bowls of water in the house – evaporation helps cool the air
- If possible, move into a cooler room, especially for sleeping
- Electric fans may provide some relief, but only use if necessary
- Remain in the coolest parts of the building as much as possible
- Keep rooms shaded and cool by closing blinds and curtains and opening windows
Look out for others
- Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to keep cool
- Ensure that babies, children or elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars
- Check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day if possible
- Be alert and call a doctor or social services if someone is feeling unwell or further help is needed
If you have a health problem
- Keep medicines below 25°C or in the fridge (read the storage instructions on the packaging)
- Seek medical advice if you suffer from a chronic health condition/take multiple medications
If you or others feel unwell
- Try to get help if you feel dizzy, weak, anxious or have intense thirst and headache
- Move to a cool place as soon as possible and measure your body temperature
- Drink some water or fruit juice to rehydrate
- Rest immediately in a cool place if you have painful muscular spasms (particularly in the legs, arms or stomach, in many cases after sustained exercise during very hot weather), and drink oral rehydration solutions containing electrolytes
- Medical attention is needed if heat cramps last more than one hour
- Consult your doctor if you feel unusual symptoms or if symptoms persist