Monday, 6 July 2009

Hot old men in Britain, relax, your Government has a cunning 'Heatwave Plan'.

The 'Heatwave Plan' for England was published by the NHS in May. ( Click on the link then put Heatwave Plan in the Search box.) On its front cover, on the left, it has 3 photos. The first is a close up of three, young smiling children, with the sun on their uncovered heads. The second is an empty deckchair with a sun hat hooked on the strut and a glass of orange juice next to the leg. The third has close up of a grey haired old chap, out in the sun, wearing a straw hat and pruning some flowers. On the right a big yellow sun sits in a hot red sky.

The Plan says that heat loss from the body in hot weather can be impaired in old people as well as the chronically ill. They are more susceptible to heart attacks and breathing difficulties. Apparently, 'older women appear more vulnerable than older men, possibly due to having fewer sweat glands and are more likely to live on their own'. In other words, less likely to have someone keeping an eye on them.

So what does the plan offer those elderly couples or single people who are more vulnerable to heat and living in their own homes, like the old chap pruning his roses on the front cover ?

The answer is : not a lot.
In the section of the report entitled 'Protective Factors', people are advised to 'Keep an eye on isolated, elderly, ill or very young people and make sure they are able to stay cool. Ensure babies, children and elderly people are not left alone in stationary cars. Check on elderly or sick neighbours, family or friends every day during a heatwave.' So the old chap in his garden is reliant on good citizens to come round and check that he is staying cool and that he's properly ventilated in his car. And that's about it.

The heart of the Plan warns health authorities that, if the Met Office issues a 'red emergency' at level 4, in its traffic light system, they should be prepared for more hospital admissions. Social workers who already visit old people in their own homes and workers in old people homes should all be extra vigilant.

Apparently, by the 2080's we can expect heatwaves every summer, like the one in 2003, which was responsible for killing thousands of additional people - mostly elderly. Where the old tread today, today's young will tread tomorrow. Let us hope that by the time they reach 'their' seventies, strategies will be in place to protect all of 'them' from the worst excesses of temperature change.

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