As industrial action continues, Surrey’s NHS prepares for cold spell, amid intense pressure on local services
As the longest strike in the history of the NHS continues during one of the busiest weeks of the year, Surrey’s local NHS is preparing for temperatures to drop, which often leads to a rise in demand for services, where some health conditions are exacerbated by colder weather, trips and falls increase and the risk to more vulnerable residents increases.
With local health and care services already under intense pressure as this latest period of industrial action, by Junior Doctors who are members of the British Medical Association, moves into its third day, of six consecutive days of action, health leaders are urging local people to use services responsibly and to take extra care as colder weather sets in.
This follows a cold weather health alert, which has been issued for the south east for the period from 6th to 12th January 2024, which warns of a potential impact on health and care services and our more vulnerable residents.
Professor Andy Rhodes, Joint Chief Medical Officer at Surrey Heartlands Health and Care Partnership explains:
Hospitals in Surrey are already experiencing high demand, with all health and care services under significant pressure.
Our frontline teams are working incredibly hard to continue to provide services and prioritise those who need urgent care but with cold weather on the way, which can often exacerbate respiratory conditions and lead to more trips and falls, we are worried about the impact on already pressured services, which are already operating with reduced staffing levels.
If people need to access health advice and treatment during this period of colder weather, which coincides with the current industrial action, we are encouraging them to still come forward – and to use services responsibly and appropriately:
- People should continue to use pharmacies, GP practices, walk-in centres and NHS 111 online or by phone 24/7 for urgent health advice. Residents are also being encouraged to download the NHS App for health advice, to book some appointments and to order repeat prescriptions.
- People should only use 999 and A&E for serious or life-threatening conditions or medical emergencies (when someone is seriously ill or injured and their life is at risk).
- If people’s appointments or procedures have been affected by industrial action the local NHS will contact people directly to reschedule them as soon as possible. If people haven’t been contacted, they should attend appointments as usual.
Professor Rhodes added:
Colder weather can cause serious problems, especially for older people, babies, those with existing health conditions and our more vulnerable residents.
We often see an increase in hospital admissions during periods of cold weather - so it’s really important we all do everything we can to keep ourselves, and others, safe.
Practical steps like keeping homes well heated, wrapping up warm and wearing shoes with a good grip, all help and can reduce the risk of becoming unwell or falling.
Older people and those who live alone can also be more vulnerable so checking on neighbours and relatives is also really important, in case their health deteriorates in the colder weather.
Anyone wanting more information about local services and where to seek help can visit the winter ready section of our website.