A Halifax consultant revealed NHS staff were “at greater risk of making errors” as they struggled with the soaring temperatures as the UK recorded its second hottest day on record with the mercury hitting 38.1C yesterday.
Nick Scriven, president of the Society for Acute Medicine, warned few lessons have been learned from last year’s heatwave and few hospitals are prepared for the impact of intense heat.
The Halifax consultant said NHS staff were “struggling” and “overheated and exhausted staff” were at greater risk of making errors.
“Last year, hospitals hired in large fans and coolers for a week or so but have got nothing long-term in place – they are purely reactive not proactive,” he said, adding there was often little in place for staff to get fluids on wards.
Sweltering temperatures were expected to spark thundery downpours, with a yellow warning for thunderstorms issued for most of England except the South West, and parts of Scotland until the early hours of this morning.
Experts at the Met Office say the current weather pattern is driving hot air from the south, but there is “no doubt” climate change is playing a role in driving what could be unprecedented temperature highs.
People are being urged to take precautions against the heat, including staying hydrated, staying inside at the hottest time of the day, avoiding exercise and wearing loose, light clothing.
The scorching temperatures also caused chaos on the rail network yesterday.
A reduced timetable in the South East came into force as Network Rail implemented speed restrictions amid fears that tracks could buckle in the heat if trains travel too fast. Speed limits on most commuter lines were also reduced from 60mph to 30mph.
The extreme conditions caused damage to overhead electric wires, blocking all lines between London and Luton.
Overhead wire failures also caused disruption between London and Watford, between Preston and Carlisle and in the Birmingham area.
Many operators urged passengers not to travel as services were delayed and cancelled.
Network Rail’s network services director Nick King said: “We have a number of heat-related incidents across the rail network that are causing disruption to services.
“We are sorry that some passengers are experiencing uncomfortable conditions and inconvenience. Our teams are working flat-out to fix the issues as quickly as possible and get people on the move.”