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UK Hospitals Rush To Buy Air Coolers As Patients And Staff Swelter

Discussion in 'Hospital' started by Nada El Garhy, Jul 27, 2018.

  1. Nada El Garhy

    Nada El Garhy Golden Member

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    Increase in ice deliveries to wards also among emergency heatwave measures

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    Hospitals are buying emergency supplies of air coolers, delivering ice to wards and hosing down their roofs in an attempt to help staff and patients cope with the heatwave.

    Patients in many hospitals are being encouraged to eat foods that contain a lot of water, such as fruit, yoghurt and salads, to help them stay hydrated, while others are providing ice cream.

    At the five hospitals in east London run by Barts Health NHS Trust, staff are undertaking regular “ice rounds”, where bags of ice are brought to wards for patients.

    NHS trusts have been bulk-buying mobile air-conditioning units and fans to help beat temperatures, which have climbed as high as 34C (93.2F) on wards this week.

    “We’ve ordered and distributed air coolers to clinical areas as a priority, in particular to high-risk areas where vulnerable patients are cared for, such as paediatrics, neonates and elderly care wards,” said a spokesperson for St George’s hospital in south London.

    It has also bought 200 fans to help patients stay cool, provided as many as 2,600 free bottles of water a day in parts of the hospital where drinking water is not easy to obtain and also bought extra water coolers.

    Prof Joe Harrison, chief executive of Milton Keynes University hospital, said: “We’ve seen temperatures in the hospital of over 30 degrees in some places. The outpatients department currently holds the record with a temperature of 34 degrees recorded, so we have made a concerted effort to furnish this area with additional fans and mobile air conditioning units.”

    Many trusts, including those in Oxford and Southampton, are moving their sickest patients to the coolest available rooms.

    For example, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUH), which runs four hospitals in and near the city, has moved patients with chronic or severe illness or who are bedbound into “naturally cooler rooms”, a spokesperson said.

    “It is more about closely monitoring patients under our care and identifying those who are most vulnerable – for example, older patients or those with multiple health conditions – who may be struggling in the heat and would benefit from a cooler room, if available”, they added.

    Staff in many places are also regularly giving patients wet towels, wipes and foot baths to help beat the heat. Certain patients are also being weighed more often to see if they are losing weight, as that can indicate that they are becoming dehydrated.

    The temperatures are also making life difficult for staff. “The heat is affecting our staff’s sleep, particularly [among] shift workers who sleep during the day. There’s been an increase in fatigue due to the very warm working environment”, said a spokeswoman for King’s College hospital in south London.

    Many NHS trusts have set aside their usual staff dress codes to help them stay as cool as possible. “We’ve relaxed our normal uniform policy, so staff who’d ordinarily wear trousers can wear shorts, ditch their tights and hopefully be a bit more comfy during work,” said Shelagh Smith, interim chief operating officer at Barking, Havering and Redbridge NHS Trust, which runs two hospitals in north-east London.

    OUH said it was “encouraging line managers to show flexibility and common sense” over what clothing staff choose to wear during the heatwave.
    Many hospitals, including Bradford Royal Infirmary (BRI), are giving staff extra breaks. Milton Keynes hospital has let staff change their working hours if they have a health condition the heat could exacerbate. Barts Trust has told staff they can carry bottles of water while on shift.

    The heat has led to a spike in the number of patients needing care. “Attendance to our Emergency Department (A&E) has increased. We are seeing 400-plus patients most days – an increase of between 30 to 50 people per day. These are particularly older people with heat-related conditions, including breathing difficulties, and injuries”, a spokeswoman for BRI said.

    OUH has seen an increase in the number of patients, mostly older, who have fallen as a result of dehydration, which can also cause delirium.

    Some hospitals have introduced temporary limits on the number of bedside visitors any patient can have – two at Southampton general, for instance.

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