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Heatwave puts pressure on ambulance services

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Health care providers have faced increasing pressure over the past few days as the heatwave prompted a marked rise in calls to ambulance services across the country.

Wednesday saw highs of up to 32C in London, with the capital’s ambulance service saying it had received 4,754 calls - 23% more than on the same day the previous week.

The biggest increase was in the number of people complaining of breathing difficulties (34% more than seven days earlier), while there was a 30% increase in calls for help for people who had fainted, and a 29% rise in those reporting chest pain.

The London Ambulance Service’s deputy director of operations, Jason Killens, commented: ‘The last few days have been very busy for both our control room and frontline staff.’

And the situation in London was mirrored across much of the rest of the country, with the West Midlands Ambulance Service also reporting a 23% increase in calls - many due to heat exhaustion, heat stroke, sunburn and dehydration.

‘Together with hospitals that are extremely busy, our staff are currently under immense pressure,’ a spokeswoman said.

And the problems could get worse over the next decade, with a report commissioned last year by the Department of Health estimating that there is a one-in-four risk of south-east England experiencing a severe heat wave with peak temperatures of more than 40C.

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