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UK Health Service Not Equipped for Climate Change

March 30, 2016
Public Health

The UK Health Alliance on Climate Change is calling on the government to ensure that health services are adequately equipped to face the challenge of climate change. The new alliance, which is made up of a number of leading health bodies including the Royal College of GP’s, the Royal College of Nursing and the British Medical Association, has stated its case in a letter to Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt.

Members point out that only a minority of local health bodies have already prepared plans that will provide an adequate response to climate change related incidents such as heatwaves, floods and the emergence of new strains of infectious disease. Concern is also expressed about the positioning of some healthcare facilities with 10 major healthcare buildings in England currently placed in flood zones, while up to 100 hospitals could be exposed to significant flood risk by 2080.

John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health believes urgent work needs to be done to ensure that the NHS is fit for purpose. “The Zika virus epidemic in South America and the impact of heatwaves in Europe, including in the UK, clearly demonstrate the devastating effects that result when the public and the health systems they rely on are unprepared for and overwhelmed by new challenges,” he said. “Let’s not wait for disaster on this scale to strike the UK before we are properly prepared.”

The Alliance aims to raise awareness of the health risks associated with climate change using areas such as air quality, cleaner transport, energy efficiency and sustainable diets as examples. Whilst they believe the problem is a UK issue, they will continue to call for strong policy responses to the problem both nationally and internationally.