Although there have been many mild days this winter, they have been interspersed with some which have been bitterly cold. As is often the case in the midst of winter, the NHS have been issuing cold weather warnings to protect those whose health is vulnerable and encourage people to take preventative action to avoid falling ill. The NHS also publish cold weather emergency plans to follow if services are disrupted due to severe weather.
Cold Weather Plan
The government has formulated a cold weather plan backed by NICE guidelines and quality standards, which aims to prevent as many avoidable deaths and illnesses associated with severe cold as possible.
The cold weather plan aims to unite efforts across front line and community based health and social care services, to protect the vulnerable from suffering the negative consequences of winter weather. This includes ensuring that fuel poverty is addressed, and homes insulated and modernised wherever possible. It also urges services to ensure that they have the capacity and capability to adequately respond to increasing pressure during colder weather. There is a widely acknowledged greater burden upon healthcare services during the winter months, mainly from increased incidence of heart and lung related conditions and complications. Clinical staffing needs to be optimal during these months to ensure services remain effective.
Protecting the Vulnerable
The key focus of the cold weather plan, which has been revised every year since it’s inception in 2011, is to inform and educate carers, staff and support personnel, whether clinically or community based, about the risks posed to the most vulnerable people in society through exposure to the cold. Preventable deaths occur due to underheated homes at average winter temperatures, not just extreme ones. Therefore, organisations and individuals are being urged to be vigilant.
Companies which provide clinical staffing solutions such as http://www.gandlscientific.com/clinical-staffing-solutions/ are able fill gaps in services when they are overstretched during the winter months. Agencies are also being urged to inform and educate their staff to encourage them to assess room temperature as part of their standard observations when visiting service users in community.
Another focus of the literature is upon preparedness, particularly in terms of making sure vulnerable people like those with disabilities, chronic conditions, immune dysfunction, the elderly, children and pregnant women gain access to the flu vaccine.