What is a heat health alert from the Met Office and UKHSA, what does amber mean & who is most vulnerable?

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The yellow and amber heat health alerts are the first of their kind in England, but what are they and who is most vulnerable?

The first heat health alert has been issued by the Met Office and the UK Health Security Agency. It has been issued across six parts of England from Friday, June 9 until Monday, June 12 – but what does the alert mean and who is most vulnerable?

The yellow heat health alert was issued in the north east, north west and Yorkshire and Humber region. London also remains under a yellow alert. The alert was upgraded to amber on Thursday for the East Midlands, West Midlands, east of England, the south east and the south west.

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The alert is in place from 9am on Friday to 9am on Monday. The alert is the first of its kind in the UK, so what does it mean?

What is a heat health alert?

A heat health alert is issued during periods when there are high temperatures which could affect public health. Currently it only applies to England and is aimed at “health and social care professionals and any with a role in reducing the harm extended periods of hot weather can have on health”.

It is issued by both the UKHSA and Met Office from June to September. It has been in operation since 2004, although this year has transitioned to an “impact based alerting”, which will provide users with information over and above the fact that hot weather is likely to occur. 

Dr Agostinho Sousa, from the UKHSA, said the hot weather will "primarily" impact people over the age of 65 or "those with pre-existing health conditions such as respiratory and cardiovascular diseases".

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Who is most vulnerable?

The UKHSA has advised people to be aware of high temperatures and check on people who are more vulnerable. According to the NHS, a heatwave can affect anyone, but vulnerable people include:

  • Elderly people, especially those over the age of 75.

  • People who live on their own or in a care home.

  • People who have a serious or long-term illness including heart or lung conditions. Illnesses also include kidney disease, Parkinson's disease or diabetes.

  • Those who might find it hard to keep cool. This includes babies as well as those who may be bed bound.

  • If you spend a lot of time outside or in hot places, you might also be at risk.

Different types of alerts

  • Green – summer preparedness. An alert isn’t issued as there are minimal impacts on health.

  • Yellow – covers a range of situations. May be used during periods of heat which could mainly impact vulnerable people.

  • Amber – enhanced response. Issued when a situation is likely to impact the whole health service and population.

  • Red – most significant and dangerous warning. Issued when there is huge risk to life across the population.

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