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Government issues cold weather health alert

Three days of prolonged severe cold could give rise to 'significant health risks'

Mark Gould

Monday, 18 February 2013

The Department of Health has issued a warning that a spell of prolonged severe cold weather forecast for large swathes of the UK over the next three days could give rise to “significant health risks”.

It advises health and social care providers to study the Public Health Cold Weather Plan which sets out advice for contingency planning and ensuring the very young and very old and other at risk patients and vulnerable people get extra support.

The Department of Health says that last year nearly 24,000 more people died over the winter period than other parts of the year. This was about the same as the year before.

The Met Office has forecast that in at least the next 2 to 3 days there is a 60% chance of severe cold weather in the North West, South West, London and West Midlands regions being low enough on at least two consecutive days to give rise to significant health risks, and a 70% chance of the same occurring in the East Midlands, East of England, North East, South East, and Yorkshire and the Humber regions.

The Cold Weather Plan defines this as a Level 2 Alert. The Met Office website’s ‘Winter Weather Warning Service’ page provides further details.

The Department of Health says cold weather can be dangerous, especially for the very young or very old or those with chronic disease. It says patients wanting advice on how to protect themselves should go to the NHS Choices website or ring NHS Direct on 0845 46 47 or contact their local GP or pharmacist.

Specific advice on steps that may be followed by health care professionals and the managers and staff of residential and nursing homes in the event of severe cold weather is available on the Cold Weather Plan.

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