Norfolk chiefs plea to consider health and safety during heatwave

18th July 2022

With heat-health alerts being issued in our region over the weekend and into next week, the local NHS, councils, police and fire service are encouraging people to be mindful of their own health and safety and that of elderly relatives or neighbours.

Suzanne Meredith, Norfolk’s Deputy Director for Public Health, said: “While many people in Norfolk are welcoming the warm weather, it’s important to remember some simple steps that will help keep us and others safe in the heat. Applying sunscreen and wearing appropriate clothing – including a hat; keeping out of the sun in the middle of the day; keeping rooms as cool as possible during the heatwave by drawing the curtains; keeping cool and drinking plenty of water and avoiding excessive alcohol or caffeine. These are simple things we all know we can do to enjoy the summer and stay safe.

Older people and those with pre-existing health conditions should be more wary of the heat as this could affect them differently to those who are fit and well. If people have elderly family members or neighbours please check in on them to ensure they are keeping cool in their homes and have all the medication and items they need.

Suzanne continued: “We can also help others as well: if you have friends or relatives who may be vulnerable, make some time to check in on them and ensure they’re following the same advice and keeping hydrated through the worst of the heat.

Not only should people consider how the heat could affect their health, should they become unwell or injured, its also really important to access the right health help as demand on services remains very high.

Local hospitals are incredibly busy caring for some very sick patients. For those who don’t need to use emergency departments, known by many as Accident and Emergency (A&E), health chiefs are calling for people to call NHS 111, visit their local pharmacy, minor injuries unit or walk-in centre.

Hay fever, insect bites/stings, sun burn and dehydration are common issues and can be easily treated at home.

In Norfolk and Waveney residents and visitors have a wide range of support for anyone who needs medical help. As well as self-caring for minor illnesses and injuries and using a well-stocked first aid kit, people can:

  • Contact NHS 111 by calling 111 or visiting for advice on what to do and where best to go for treatment for urgent medical problems.

Anyone who thinks they need A&E should call 111 first, and they can book a time slot at an emergency department if necessary. Calling 111 first will help to ensure that patients receive the right care in the right place, in a timely and safe way.

  • Visit a pharmacy for expert help and advice on common conditions such as hay fever, colds, cuts and bruises and insect bites.
  • Drop into the NHS Walk-In Centre at Rouen House on Rouen Road in Norwich. Open between 7am and 9pm daily, it can help with minor cuts and wounds, strains and sprains and skin complaints.
  • Go to the Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) in Cromer or Wisbech, which have x-ray facilities and can provide treatment for minor wounds, burns, simple fractures and other injuries. People can call 111 for their locations and opening times.

Tricia D’Orsi, NHS Norfolk and Waveney’s Director of Nursing, said: “You may not think it, but dehydration is a one of the leading concerns we have during the hot weather, people who are already very ill can become quite unwell if they don’t drink enough water. That’s why we are encouraging people to check in on anyone they know who is elderly or vulnerable.

“This all sounds very obvious, but it’s very easy to get caught out when we’re not used to these conditions in the UK. We’ve already been seeing those with weather-related illnesses in our services so our plea is for people to consider their health and safety when making plans over the coming days.

“If you have any underlying conditions or concerns, you can call NHS 111 for advice and they can direct you to the support you need to stay safe.”

People are reminded that with COVID-19 still circulating, all health settings continue to ask for everyone to use a face covering in all health and care buildings and clinical areas unless they are exempt.

Patients who are not exempt from wearing a face covering should wear one, follow social distancing and hand hygiene guidance. If patients are exempt from wearing a mask, a face shield may be offered as an alternative.

There are also calls for people to be mindful of their environment over the coming days as the dry conditions could increase the risk of fires and danger from open water at the coast, the Broads and rivers.

When dealing with fires, there are a number of hazards associated with warmer weather and drier conditions. These can all lead to greater demand on emergency services – from barbecue fires and uncontrolled bonfires, to grass fires – and increases the dangers for everyone. If you do decide to use open fires and non-gas barbecues please be extremely careful and remember that you do so at your own risk.

Scott Norman, Norfolk’s Deputy Chief Fire Officer, said: “The hot weather will greatly increase the risk of outdoor fires, as the warmer and drier conditions could cause even a small spark to spread rapidly. Be aware of the dangers: don’t use open fires of barbecues on ground which is dry or yellow and stay cautious if using them anywhere else, even on stone or tarmac. Don’t drop cigarette ends or anything lit that could cause a fire to start, and be aware that even a glass bottle left unattended could cause a fire.”

Even in hot weather, water is much colder than it looks and the temperature can significantly drop under the surface. Cold water shock can kill, so if you find yourself in trouble in the water then floating on your back can help you to get your breath back and keep you calm.

Scott added: “And if you’re looking to cool off, never jump into water or venture out to swim alone: the water looks cold and inviting precisely because it is cold, and no matter how warm the air is the temperature just below the surface can be deadly, causing shock and risking the lives of unwary swimmers. Stay sensible, stay dry and keep yourselves and your friends safe.”