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Peak 2022 heatwave forced a fifth of UK hospitals to cancel operations – research | Hospitals

Almost a fifth of hospitals in the UK were forced to cancel operations during the three days of July last year when temperatures soared to the highest, research shows.

The findings, published in a letter to the British Journal of Surgery, are based on surveys of surgeons, anesthesiologists and intensive care doctors who were working at the height of last year’s heat wave, July 16-19. , when temperatures reached 40 ° C. in some parts of the country.

Researchers received 271 responses from 140 UK hospitals, with respondents from nearly one in five hospitals (18.5%) reporting that elective surgeries had been canceled following the heat wave.

Another third (35.1%) of hospitals would have had to cancel surgery if the high temperatures had continued, the results showed.

This is because NHS buildings were not designed to withstand dangerously high temperatures, the researchers said.

Other factors that contributed to cancellations included staff shortages (reported by 35.8% of respondents), unsafe theater environments (30.3%) and bed shortages (22.1%).

Additionally, respondents said surgical wards were ill-prepared for heatwaves, with 41% of operating rooms having no means of controlling ambient temperature, while more than a third (35.4%) reported making changes to maintain routine surgical activity during the period.

These included delayed discharge of high-risk patients, changes to surgical teams, selection of low-risk patients for surgery, and restriction of surgical activity to day cases.

Other measures included longer staff breaks, extra fluids given to patients and earlier morning surgeries when temperatures were lower.

James Glasbey, PhD researcher at the National Institute for Health and Care Research in Global Surgery at the University of Birmingham, and co-author of the letter, said: ‘Even short heat waves can lead to widespread disruption of surgical services across the country. United Kingdom.

“The likelihood of extreme weather events is increasing – we could find ourselves in a stressful ‘winter’ and ‘summer’ situation over the next few years.

“As hospitals tackle post-Covid surgery backlogs, they need to think about how to protect themselves against further climate change-related disruptions in the delivery of surgical services.

“This should be included in the preparation of ‘summer pressure’ plans to improve the resilience of elective surgery wards.”


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