This year, our Spread the Warmth campaign is working with the Met Office and Department of Work and Pensions as part of the national Cold Weather Plan to provide targeted information to the older people who are most at risk, when a cold snap is imminent. The guest blog below from the Met office sets out how the Cold Weather Plan will work:
There is a strong link between the weather and health, especially during cold weather in winter, with the elderly being especially vulnerable. As a result, this winter the Met Office has teamed-up with the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency to provide a Cold Weather Alert Service.
We have developed a range of alerts with the Department of Health and the Health Protection Agency to pinpoint when winter weather will impact on people’s health. These alerts will be issued if mean temperatures are below 2 °C for 48 hours or longer, if there is heavy snow or widespread ice.
The alerts will be produced by the Met Office and will operate inEnglandfrom 1 November to 31 March. They will be sent to NHS Trusts inEngland, as well as being made available on our website and in other media.
We will also be working with AgeUK to provide their centres inEngland with the Cold Weather Alerts helping to keep the most vulnerable people well this winter.
The alerts are split into four different categories:
Level 1 – indicates winter preparedness and long-term planning and will be in place from the start of the monitoring period. This is the minimum state of vigilance during the winter. During this time social and healthcare services will ensure that there is ongoing awareness and preparedness
Level 2 – this will be triggered as soon as the risk is 60% or above for any of the three thresholds to be breached. This is an important stage for social and healthcare services who will be working to ensure readiness and swift action to reduce harm from a potential period of cold weather.
Level 3 — this will be reached when we are experiencing weather which breaches any of the three thresholds. This stage requires social and healthcare services to target specific actions at high-risk groups.
Level 4 – this will only be triggered when a period of cold weather is so severe or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system. A Red level warning would be issued on advice from, or in collaboration with our Government partners. At this level, health effectsmay occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups.
With up to 27,000 extra deaths each year as a result of cold weather, it is vital that we increase the awareness of the effects of cold weather on health. Our warning is designed to help people prepare for prolonged spells of cold weather and aims to reduce the number of extra deaths each year.
Last year was the coldest December in 100 years with many areas experiencing significant snowfall, widespread ice and low temperatures. Some areas saw temperatures fall as low as -20 °C overnight.
Statistics produced by the Department of Health show that for every 1°C decrease in average winter temperature inEnglandthere are approximately 8,000 extra deaths. This is why it is vital to stay one step ahead of the weather and make sure people ‘Keep Warm and Keep Well’ this winter.