Hospital demand soars as hot weather continues

PUBLISHED: 13:09 13 August 2010

PATIENTS suffering from breathing problems, dehydration and heat exhaustion have flooded into Darent Valley hospital since the start of the heatwave, as north Kent experiences the highest temperatures in the country.

Extended periods of heat reaching levels of 31 degrees centigrade has seen the Met Office issue an official health alert, and West Kent PCT urge people with elderly relatives or neighbours to look out for them.

A spokesman for Darent Valley confirmed the weather was taking its toll and alongside more obvious conditions staff have seen a increase in drink-related incidents.

He said: “Since the heatwave there has been a general increase of patients coming into A&E.”

“There is also an increase of alcohol-related injuries. People are drinking more in the summer because there are more outside activities where alcohol is available.”

The Met office station in Gravesend regularly records the country’s highest temperatures, briefly holding the UK record in 2003 at more than 38 degrees, with Dartford also at the high end for the country.

Helen Chivers, a spokesman for the Met Office, said hot weather early in the summer could see temperatures rise even further.

She said: “The hottest temperatures are usually recorded at the start of August because we have gone through the summer,” explaining hot weather hardens the ground radiating more heat into the air and raising temperatures.

In June 2003 the south-east experienced some of the hottest temperatures recorded, at an average of 16.3 degrees, rising to 17.9 in July.

The average in June this year was slightly below that at 15.8 degrees.

Declan O’Neill, Director of Health Improvement at NHS West Kent, said: “It is particularly important to look after young children in the heat and protect them from sunburn. Sunburn in children dramatically increases their chances of skin cancer later on in life, so childhood prevention is lifelong protection.”

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