Amid unseasonably cold temperatures, and severe flooding in parts of the country, the Department of Health has today published its Heatwave Plan for England to help people protect their health and curb the risk of illness and death among the most vulnerable, should temperatures soar this summer.
The Plan was first published in 2004 following the heatwave of 2003, when excess deaths among the over 75s rose by 60% in London alone.
It has been significantly revamped to take account of large scale public events, such as the Jubilee celebrations in June and the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, which will run from the end of July to September.
The 2012 version has been reordered to highlight public health messages and follow-up actions, while the main body of the text takes the form of an Action Plan which advises individuals, professionals and organisations advice on how to respond to a spell of severe heat to protect vulnerable people.
The Plan emphasises the role community and voluntary sector organisations might take. And it details how the four levels of the Heat Health Watch system, which operate between June and September, and the emergency response, will function amid the latest organisational structures and responsibilities prompted by the Health and Social Care Act.
It contains new sections on large scale public events, drought, heatwaves, and Ramadan, which this year falls over the summer period. And it updates two of the three accompanying factsheets for health and social care organisations, professionals and for care home managers.
Advice ranges from simple measures, such as wearing loose fitting clothing and walking in the shade, to turning off lights and electrical equipment and installing cavity and loft insulation.
It is particularly important for the young and old to keep cool, says the Plan, which suggests keeping a thermometer in the main living room and bedroom to monitor ambient temperatures and making sure than any medicines are refrigerated in very hot weather.
In a letter to NHS and local authority chiefs sent out today, announcing the new Plan, chief medical officer, Dame Sally Davies and NHS chief executive David Nicholson, urge organisations to start taking steps to implement the Plan now.