While some people are thinking about building snowmen or sledging, even the chance of a snow day or two, for others the upcoming (possibly lengthy) cold spell and snowfall will bring a sense of dread.
Caroline Abrahams. Charity Director at Age UK said:
“The cold weather is challenging for many older people, particularly if they are coping with ill health or living in housing that costs a lot to heat. Exposure to the cold can have a really serious impact on older people because ageing bodies find it harder to adjust to big changes in temperature. For example, the cold raises blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of a heart attack or stroke, and breathing in cold air can also increase the risk, and impact, of serious illnesses like flu and pneumonia. We’d also urge everyone to keep a friendly eye on older relatives, friends and neighbours, especially when the weather is very bad and it’s difficult to get out. Offering to bring in some shopping, or just popping in for a chat and a cup of tea, can be a real help during the long winter months.”
Flu, respiratory illnesses and cold are the winter killers, for the elderly but also younger people, especially the homeless.
NHS England have a preparation system, in conjunction with the UK Met Office, to monitor any upcoming significant cold. There are a series of alert stages which relate to how the health professionals and social workers should respond and for the general public to prepare. It is separate to the Yellow Be Aware /Amber Be Prepared /Red Take Action severe weather warnings.
There are four levels. The middle two are triggered by the Met Office relating to Mean temperatures below 2 degrees Celsius for 48 hours or longer and Heavy snow and/or widespread ice
Green — Winter preparedness and action - runs from 1st Nov until end of March
Yellow — Alert and readiness - This is an important stage for social and healthcare services who will be working to ensure readiness and swift action to reduce harm from a potential period of cold weather.
Amber — Severe weather action - This stage requires social and healthcare services to target specific actions at high-risk groups. And give the public advanced warning of adverse weather conditions that could have a significant effect on health and well-being, to make preparations to keep safe and well.
Red — National Emergency - Reached when a period of cold weather is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system. A level 4 warning would be issued on advice from, or in collaboration with, our Government partners. At this level, the health effects may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups.
It relates to the weather increasing the health risks to vulnerable patients and disrupt the delivery of services.
Alerts are issued once a day by 0900 if required and are not subject to amendment in between standard issue times. Note that the details of the forecast weather are valid at the time of issue but may change over the period that an alert remains in force. So the alert level can remain the same over many days but Met Office severe weather warnings will be updated separately meanwhile.
What should I do if a major incident/Red Alert is declared?
Follow key public health and weather alerts messages as broadcast on the media.
Help with heating costs
Back in Nov/Dec the annual Winter Fuel payments were paid to those old enough to be eligible, between £100-£300. This is to help with winter heating regardless of the actual weather. The Cold Weather Payments kick in when the UK weather is very cold.
You’ll get a payment if the average temperature in your area is recorded as, or forecast to be, zero degrees Celsius or below for 7 consecutive days. You’ll get a payment of £25 for each 7 day period of very cold weather between 1 November and 31 March.
This is for people on certain benefits and should be paid automatically.
Your weather app may be showing +2C or +3C but that will be the maximum temperature through the day. For much of the week air temperatures will barely be above freezing and adding on the wind chill it will feel bitterly cold.
Preparation for Winter - Age UK
Cold weather alerts from NHS England
There is lots of data about various years and decades and the trends of excess winter deaths, reasons and analysis. Office for National Statistics