“As a nation we need more planning and preparedness for severe climate conditions,” said Dr Chris Papadopoulos, a lecturer in public health at the University of Bedfordshire. “The best response to threats to public health is always prevention.”
Mr Ward added that the UK’s heatwave plan is “not fit for purpose”, referring to a recent review of the strategy which found that it was overly focused on “warning and informing”, rather than providing planning and material help.
As well as preparing for increased pressure on the health system, Mr Ward said ventilation needs to be improved on public transport, while temperature limits for those who work outside should be introduced.
And alongside improving insulation in houses to protect against the cold, buildings should be retrofitted to prepare for the heat – adding elements such as shutters to keep out the heat.
“The big danger to those who are vulnerable is overheating in their homes,” Mr Ward said. He added that heatwaves should be named, much like severe storms, to raise their profile.
“We need to start thinking of high temperatures as a natural disaster,” he added. “If we had 100 people dying during flooding, we’d describe it as a natural disaster. Heatwaves clearly are, too – and preventable ones.”
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