Heat-related deaths set to treble by 2050
There will be approximately 7,000 heat-related deaths every year in the UK by 2050 without government action, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) has warned today.
That is more than treble the 2,000 deaths recorded in 2003 as a result of higher temperatures, with the cross-party group of MPs describing adaptation as “a matter of life and death”.
This comes as weather forecasters predict the UK could see its record temperature of 38.5˚C beaten this week, with the EAC saying this could become the new “summer norm” by 2040.
“Heatwaves cause premature deaths from cardiac, kidney and respiratory disease,” EAC chair, Mary Creagh, said. “Warnings are welcomed as barbecue alerts, but they threaten health, wellbeing and productivity.
“The government must stop playing pass the parcel with local councils and the NHS, and develop a strategy to protect our ageing population from this increasing risk.”
The EAC recommend NHS England issue guidance in preparation for more frequent heatwaves, and that resilience inspections be carried out in hospitals and care homes through the Care Quality Commission.
It also suggests the government consider introducing maximum workplace temperatures, and that businesses and schools relax uniform and dress code policies.
Building regulations should be updated to prevent overheating, along with stricter water efficiency standards, while a study into the economic and health impacts of higher temperatures on transport systems should be carried out.
In addition, the committee said a public information campaign on the growing frequency and intensity of heatwaves should be launched, including a year-round alert system to warn vulnerable people about the health risks.
“The government needs to do more to warn the public of the health risks of heatwaves, particularly when they fall outside of the summer period, and should appoint a minister to lead work across government,” Creagh continued.
“It must change building regulations and planning policies to ensure homes and transport networks are able to deal with extreme heat, and that local authorities and cities have green spaces and heat-resilient infrastructure.”
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Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM