By Paul Homewood
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) is today updating its Adverse Weather Alerting service for England which it runs in partnership with the Met Office.
The improved system will continue to focus specifically on the health impacts of extreme weather in England on the health of the population but is now a colour coded, impact-based service. It is mainly aimed at health professionals and those with long-term health conditions such as heart conditions.
Heat-Health Alerts and Cold-Health Alerts are part of the Weather-Health Alerting system, Heat Health Alerts (HHA) run from 1 June to 30 Sept. Heat
HHA will be sent directly to social and healthcare services in England, organisations such as Age UK, and appear on a new dedicated website. They will give advanced warning of any adverse weather conditions that could have a significant effect on health and well-being, enabling health care professionals to prepare and the public to take extra precautions to keep safe and well. The HHA’s will run alongside the Met Office Extreme Heat National Severe Weather Warning Service. Although the two services have a different focus, they will work together to highlight all potential impacts from extreme heat.
Will Lang, Head of Situational Awareness at the Met Office, said: “We are looking forward to working even more closely with UKHSA following the changes to the heat-health alerting system, building on the work we have already been doing together. The effects of human-induced climate change are already being felt on UK’s summer with an increase in the frequency, duration, and intensity of extreme heat events over recent decades and temperatures in excess of 40C recorded for the first-time last summer.”
“The updated health alerts will be complementary to and run alongside our UK wide National Severe Weather Warnings and will play a pivotal role in helping save lives, protect property and the economy as we all work to tackle adverse weather and climate change going forward. It is only by working in close partnerships with organisations like UKHSA that effective action can be taken when it matters.”
Dr Agostinho Sousa, Head of Extreme Events and Health Protection at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “Our heat-health alerting system plays a vital role in notifying professionals and the public of forecasted high temperatures that can affect the health of those most at risk, particularly individuals over the age of 65 and those with pre-existing health conditions. Last year saw record high temperatures across England and evidence shows that heatwaves are likely to occur more often, be more intense and last longer in the years and decades ahead. It is important we are able to quantify the likely impacts of these heatwaves before they arrive to prevent illness and reduce the number of deaths.
The Met Office already have a system in place for heat waves; last year they issued their first red alert for one – (CLUE – they only introduced the system last year). There is no need therefore another layer; surely all of these care organisations, not to mention the public at large, are perfectly capable of understanding a weather forecast.
No, the real plan here is to bombard the public with Heat Alerts every time we get a bit of sunny weather.
As for the claim of saving lives, the fact remains that mortality rates are at their lowest in summer, even last year. If we are to have alerts for hot weather, what about an amber alert for April showers or a mild autumn day?
In reality, the heatwaves did not increase the number of deaths as they claim, they merely brought forward those deaths by a few days or weeks at the most, as the ONS told us in the special study they published last October:
We can see this clearly by looking at the July data. According to the ONS, the largest number of excess deaths occurred during July:
Yet the total the number of deaths in July was less than June’s on a daily rate, not to mention a lot lower than April and May:
There is no evidence that more people are dying in Britain because of hot summers.