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28th November 2016

Adverse Weather – Keeping Warm and Well this Winter

Adverse Weather - Keeping Warm and Well this Winter

As I was driving home last night at 8pm after doing the ‘mum’s taxi’ bit, the motorway overhead signs were flashing ‘Gritting in Progress’, I had the car heating belting out and my gloves had been rescued from the cupboard.  I realised, after basking in 18 degrees earlier the previous week, that winter had well and truly announced its arrival. Adverse weather is on the way.

Dropping Temperatures = Increasing Health Issues

Alarmingly, an estimated 43,900 excess winter deaths occurred in England and Wales in 2014/15; the highest number since 1999/00, with 27% more people dying in the winter months compared with the non-winter months. Many of the deaths occurred among people aged 75 and over. For each degree centigrade the temperature falls below five degrees, there is a 10% increase in the number of older people seeing their GP about breathing problems, a 0.8% increase in emergency hospital admissions, and a 3.4% increase in deaths.

Preparing for Adverse Weather

With this in mind, now is a good time, if you haven’t done so already, to review your business continuity plan and to have a read of the QCS  ‘Adverse Weather Policy and Procedure’ that has just been reviewed.

Have a think about what measures you have in place to manage the impact of snow, ice, flooding and other weather conditions. Also consider putting in place plans to make sure your staff can get to work and service users can continue to receive their care as planned.

When you review your vulnerable service users, talk to your team about the World Health Organisation guidance on heating the home. Explore activities to keep your service user’s warm and importantly, make sure your service users are eating and drinking properly. Any concerns should be escalated immediately.

Do Fuzzy Slippers need a Risk Assessment?

Now I do love a fluffy slipper to keep my permanently cold feet, warm, but with 10% of falls resulting in serious injury now is also a good time to make sure any risk assessments reflect the hazards due to slips, trips and falls. Considering whether service users need support to choose appropriate footwear as well as the right clothes for the weather is important – especially for customers with dementia who may need more help to get this right.

Finally, thinking about heating - old boilers may struggle, which can pose risks from carbon monoxide poisoning (how many of us have a specific detector and also when did the smoke alarm last get checked?). Also when visiting service users be aware of the temperature in the home – it may be cold due to financial concerns, or a lack of understanding on how to turn up the heating or even with the heating on or off. Have a look at your risk assessments in the home or your service user’s home and check you have covered all the bases. It’s worth remembering that there are plenty of partner agencies that can offer help will fuel poverty and benefit checks as well as the prevention of fire in the home. Having information to hand so you can sign post in your local area might be useful.

With bookmakers reducing the odds on it being a white Christmas this year, putting some easy plans in place will help towards keep your service users safe and healthy throughout this winter whatever the weather throws at us.

*All information is correct at the time of publishing

Philippa Shirtcliffe

QCS Clinical Policy Lead

Philippa started her nursing career 30 years ago in Leeds. After 10 years working predominantly in ITU and Vascular Surgical Units she moved into social care working for Anchor Trust. Since then she has been a branch manager and area manager with responsibility for multiple branches and housing with care. Following a two-year Department of Health funded project exploring the development intermediate care services with a homecare setting within Anchor, Philippa became the Business Development Manager. After developing extensive experience of commissioning practices, policy writing and contract mobilisation, she joined Nestor Healthcare (now Allied Healthcare) as the Head of Policy. Read more

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