Responding to the UKHSA's first ever Red National Severe Weather Warning for extreme heat, Emma Runswick, deputy chair of BMA council, said
“This red-alert heatwave is putting additional stress on an NHS that is already on red alert due to staffing shortages and an overstretched workforce. We would like to have a health service with the capacity to respond to mounting cases of heatstroke, dehydration and other seasonal illnesses, but sadly this is far from the case.
“As doctors strive to care for patients as best they can this week, we remind employers that they deserve to work safely: they will need rest breaks, hydration and consideration for their own health. It is for Government to ensure that future weather crises like this can be met with a fully-staffed and climate-ready NHS.
“As the climate heats up and exceptionally hot weather becomes more frequent we must now add “summer pressures” to the “winter pressures” the NHS must face yearly. After decades of underinvestment, our hospitals are under-resourced, under-bedded and under-staffed and not capable of adding these new challenges to an already formidable pile that includes elective backlogs, an ageing and growing population, and more.
“Doctors are working in hospitals and GP practices in dire need of modernisation. Since the pandemic began we have frequently pointed out that outdated NHS buildings are putting patient and staff safety in jeopardy when it comes to ventilation - far too little progress has been made since then. We must also add climate pressures to the case for upgrades – ventilation, air conditioning, and modern insulation will all be necessary for safe working as the summers heat up. These investments are vital both for the safety of patients and the safety of the doctors looking after them. All employers have a legal duty to ensure a safe working environment, and hospitals need to consider how a hotter climate affects that duty.”
Notes to editors
The BMA is a trade union and professional association representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.