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Nurses urged to look out for older patients during ‘cold snap’

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NHS and nurse leaders have urged people to take steps to help elderly and vulnerable patients stay “warm and well” during cold weather due over the next few days, to avoid unnecessary admissions.

With forecasts of heavy snow and temperatures set to plummet, NHS England has today issued a joint statement with the Royal College of Emergency Medicine and the Royal College of Nursing.

“If the temperature drops five degrees there will be a 4-5% increase in people being admitted to hospital”

Keith Willett

The national health service body, the RCEM and RCN have asked that older people try and stay well by keeping warm both indoors and out and heat their homes to at least 18C.

They are also urging people to stock up on their medicines over the next few days in case they cannot leave their homes due to adverse weather conditions.

In addition, they asked anyone who becomes unwell to “take early action” and visit NHS Choices online for information or visit a local pharmacist.

Meanwhile, those living next to elderly or vulnerable neighbours are being urged to check on them during the cold spell.

Professor Keith Willett, NHS England’s medical director for acute care, said: “For every one degree that the temperature drops below five degrees, there is a 10% rise in elderly people presenting with breathing problems and almost a 1% increase in emergency admissions.

“Therefore, if the temperature drops five degrees there will be a 4-5% increase in people being admitted to hospital,” he noted.

“In the coming cold snap all of us can also help by checking up on elderly neighbours”

Janet Davies

Janet Davies, RCN chief executive and general secretary, said: “We know that as temperatures drop, older people and those with existing health conditions become vulnerable to a number of illnesses, some of which can be highly dangerous.

“In the coming cold snap all of us can also help by checking up on elderly neighbours and family members and making sure they’re well and warm enough – older people should have their homes heated to at least 18 degrees Celsius,” she said.

Dr Tajek Hassan, president of the RCEM, added: “If you know someone who might be vulnerable at this time of year, please encourage them to do what they can to stay well and check in on them from time to time.”

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