The last time we had a heatwave of this magnitude was in 1976. For those who weren’t alive then, the temperatures soared not just for two days, but for two months. While the extremes were not the same as right now, the highest recorded temperature was 35.9C in Cheltenham.
The difference was that the 1976 heatwave lasted for 10 weeks, leading to food shortages and drought. It was estimated that there were 20 per cent more deaths as a result of the heat, and it’s this statistic that hospitals are now focusing on. Emergency departments have had to prepare for an influx of patients affected by the sudden soaring heat, as extreme temperatures affect everyone and not just the elderly or infirm.
Already we have seen ambulance services reporting a rise in 999 calls. Hospitals have been asked to create additional waiting areas for A&E departments, putting extra pressure on our already overworked staff. As an A&E trauma surgeon, I’m now working an additional three hours a night to attend to emergencies, and in this heat it’s incredibly draining.
I’ve heard that some operating theatres have had to close as a result of overheating. It’s unsurprising as many of our hospital buildings are constantly trying to modernise while running essential services. We’re also fighting against outdated computer systems and the use of paper records for our patients.
Luckily we have DocComs to hand – a WhatsApp for doctors that’s so much more. It’s not just a messaging service that can speed up communications between departments, but it’s a way of recording patient information so it can be shared quickly and securely with all those treating them as they move through the hospital.
It means I can tell my colleagues on the ward about the patient who will shortly be arriving, so they are ready and prepared. We all have the information on our phone so there’s no panic about lost pieces of paper or computer logins that fail. As a result, we can expedite treatment so more people can be seen.
This speed is vital in particular for the elderly and for children, whose bodies can’t cope with sudden extremes in temperature. From a clinician point of view, the more tools we have to help us treat patients quickly, the better it is for everyone. Luckily it looks like the extreme temperatures won’t last for 10 weeks this year, but we need to make sure we’re more prepared for next time as these climate changing events become more regular.
Register now to see how DocComs can support you and your team.
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