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Call for water bottles to be allowed on wards during heatwave


The Royal College of Nursing has called on trusts to allow nurses to take water bottles onto the wards during the current heatwave, in order to avoid dehydration.

The college said that some hospitals were getting so hot that patients and relatives are passing out and vomiting according to worried nurses.

“Hospital management should allow water bottles on shift so staff can stay hydrated”

Anna Crossley

The heatwave has seen temperatures on some wards reach more than 30 degrees, with nurses reporting feeling ill and expressing concerns about the welfare of patients.

Yet many nurses say they are not able to stay properly hydrated, as some hospitals do not allow water bottles on wards, and there is no time to take breaks on understaffed wards.

Many hospitals – particularly newer modular builds – were not designed with very hot summers in mind, and are not fitted with air conditioning, noted the RCN.

It warned that the situation could get worse, if temperatures continued to rise.

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Anna Crossley

Meanwhile, this week the government has published building design guidance that seeks to mitigate the effects of climate change on public buildings.

Anna Crossley, the RCN’s professional lead for acute, emergency and critical care, said: “Nursing staff should not be expected to work 12 hours shifts in stifling heat with no access to water.

“Not only is this extremely uncomfortable, it is dangerous, both for them, and the patients they care for,” she said.

“Dehydration in overheated hospitals is a health risk and can lead to serious conditions – including urinary tract infections and acute kidney injury,” she said. “By law, patients, relatives and staff must have easy access to water.

She added: “Dehydration also affects cognition, which could lead to mistakes. Hospital management should allow water bottles on shift so staff can stay hydrated and make sure they have breaks. This is an issue of patient safety.”


Readers' comments (10)

  • Which hospitals? I’ve never had any problems in any place I’ve worked

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  • In mine! They have decided we can drink on the wards now though after sweating it out in 30 degree temperatures this last week. Very generous of them....

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  • This is going to encourage new applicants into nursing!
    Personally would not choose to work somewhere so draconian.
    Obviously need to avoid spills on electronic equipment but all nurses, patients and relatives should have 24/7 access to FREE chilled water machines.

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  • I am a student nurse on my second placement. Currently you are allowed to drink water keeping bottles out of clinical areas. My previous placement in the same trust, if water bottles were out in any areas including kitchen or rest room they were disposed of by the house keeper!! Breaks were also rare. Not having access to drinks is terrible in or out of a heatwave! How can we look after patients if we are not able to keep ourselves healthy and hydrated??

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  • I work in a rehabilitation hospital for elderly. The heat is on full blast even during summer and the windows don't open wide for security reason. The clinic room is small and stifling and definitely a danger when you can't think straight to draw up CD's. Two nurses are off with urinary tract infections and no wonder. It is hard to get a break when colleagues are working flat out with staff shortages. We can't take water bottles but when we get a chance, can nip into the staff room for water. I am glad to hear that not everyone faces this but it does happen, believe me. I dread tomorrow.

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  • We have to keep out water bottles in the kitchen, the bays I have looked after this week were not that close to the kitchen and today I had the chance to have 1 sip of water in 8 hours. I didn't have time for my half hour break so I ate at home at 4:30pm having last eaten at 6:30 am. This is fairly typical, we're not even under staffed its just really busy all the time.

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  • stuff what the rule is, preventing dehydration is more important. Just take a bottle with you.

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  • Why won't nurses EVER stand up for themselves? Who makes these rules? Why aren't they told to get stuffed? You're entitled to a break so take it, if the work doesn't get done due to staff shortages, it's not your fault. You don't get any thanks for being a martyr. Personally, I can't think straight when it's this hot.

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  • If dehydration causes an occupational 'injury' - a UTI or kidney stones or you faint and injure yourself because you are dehydrated then your employer is liable if they haven't made a reasonable effort to keep you safe. Not allowing water bottles or no breaks is not safe - there is a case going through the courts for AKI due to no breaks and the subsequent dehydration over a prolonged and repetitive period of employment (not during a heatwave I might add) - mock health & safety all you want - but as the previous contributor said please stick up for yourselves - the NHS doesn't care - but it will as I suspect this case will not be the last.

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  • Absolutely no problem with water bottles in our department - and not just during the hot weather !!

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