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Ambulance services across the UK have been put under "highest alert level" as the sweltering heatwave poses a danger to life and potential of serious illness.
The soaring temperatures and staff absences due to Covid-19 have left ambulances struggling to cope. All 10 ambulance trusts in England said they are on the highest level alert, Resource Escalation Action Plan 4 (REAP 4). The alert means they are under “extreme pressure” and is only declared when the ambulance service can no longer "effectively deliver".
The Welsh Ambulance Service has today also declared the highest alert, while Northern Ireland Ambulance Service has been operating on REAP 4 for over a year.
Scotland Ambulance Service has been under the second highest alert, REAP 3, for several months.
There is a 30 per cent chance Britain will record its hottest ever temperature, the national forecaster said with temperatures expected to peak on Monday. The current record high was recorded in July 2019 at a shocking 38.7°C.
Next week's amber warning will cover most of England as far as Darlington and to Plymouth. Part of Whales are under the warning while Northern Ireland and areas in Cornwall and the north are excluded.
The forecasting agency added "substantial" changes in working practices and daily routines are likely required to cope with the soaring temperatures. Yesterday saw highs above just over 31°C recording in Surrey and in west London.
Here are Tuesday's extremes 🌡️ ☀️ 🌧️ pic.twitter.com/ME9mgF12Mu— Met Office (@metoffice) July 12, 2022
West Midlands Ambulance Service said it has been on the highest level for a few months and South Central Ambulance Service has declared a critical incident “due to current pressures on our services”. It warned of delays for patients with “less urgent needs” and asked them to seek alternative treatment if possible.
A London Ambulance spokesman said that it has moved to REAP 4 due to high demand for both 999 and 111 services. East Midlands Ambulance Service, East of England Ambulance Service, Yorkshire Ambulance Service, North West Ambulance Service, North East Ambulance Service are all operating on the highest level of alert.
Drink plenty of fluids, wear sunscreen and avoid excess alcohol during the hot weather. Stay #WeatherAware— London Ambulance Service 💙 (@Ldn_Ambulance) July 12, 2022
We are incredibly busy & remain under significant pressure. Please only call us in a serious medical emergency.#Heatwave pic.twitter.com/LAfqrXGM7F
Martin Flaherty, Association of Ambulance Chief Executives managing director, said the NHS ambulance sector is under “intense pressure”. Flaherty said the highest level alert is only ever reserved for major incidents or periods of unusually high demand.
He warned: “Severe delays in ambulance crews being able to hand over their patients at many hospital emergency departments are having a very significant impact on the ambulance sector’s ability to respond to patients as quickly as we would like to, because our crews and vehicles are stuck outside those hospitals.”
Experts predict temperatures across the globe will continue to rise unless significant steps are taken to cut emissions and slow down global warming.
Portugal is one of the most impacted countries in Europe as the current heatwave fuels wildfires and places 80 per cent of its mainland at risk of fires. Further away, over 80 of China's cities have issued red alerts with temperatures due to exceed 40°C.