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ICBs to lead extreme weather responses

ICBs to lead extreme weather responses
By Jess Hacker
4 May 2023

Integrated care boards (ICBs) have been charged with developing local resilience plans to deal with health crises caused by extreme weather conditions.

Under the UK Health Security Agency’s (UKHSA) Adverse Weather and Health Plan, the new NHS systems will be required to define their own footprint-wide strategy to ensure the wellbeing of staff and patients during an extreme heatwave or cold front.

The new plan comes as part of a commitment under the climate change National Adaption Programme (NAP), and draws on existing Government measures, including the previous Heatwave Plan for England.

It also builds on ICBs’ statutory requirement to protect public health and service delivery ‘in the event of adverse weathers events’.

According to the UKHSA, these local adverse plans should include

  • Plans to reduce exposure to extreme indoor temperatures
  • A detailed outline for how they will protect the most vulnerable within their population
  • Assurance that each health and social care provider has their own preparedness plan
  • Training for staff to respond appropriate to adverse weather events
  • And ensuring estates and facilities are prepared for extreme weather.

Local authorities and NHS England have been advised to use the plan as a guide for ‘wider adverse weather planning’.

The new plan – which will be updated annually – will be underpinned by Weather-Health alerts developed in partnership with the Met Office.

This will include a dedicated platform for heat health and cold health alerts for health professionals to be launched in June 2023 and November 2023 respectively.

These alerts will contain information on weather conditions expected in the immediate future and an assessment of their regional impact, the UKHSA said.

Depending on the level of alert, a response will be triggered to communicate the risk to the NHS England, government, and public health system, it added.

In its user guide, it said: ‘During the warm season, UKHSA and the Met Office will monitor the weather forecasts and where episodes of hot weather are identified using predefined evidence-based considerations, a dynamic risk assessment will be carried out and the appropriate alert issued.’

Stephen Groves, NHS England director of emergency preparedness and resilience, said: ‘The NHS needs to be able to plan for and respond to a wide range of incidents and emergencies which could affect the public’s health or patient care, and this includes severe and adverse weather.’

Will Lang, head of situational awareness at the Met Office, said: ‘This Plan builds on the work we have already been doing together. The updated Weather-Health alerts will be complementary to and run alongside our 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.’

In July last year, Guy’s and St Thomas’ trust (GSTT) had to cancel operations and postpone appointments after its IT system failed due to the extreme heat.

And in August Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin ICS has declared a critical incident due to ‘continued and unprecedented pressure’ across all services in the area.

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