The ambulance service is currently at ‘black alert’ in Bristol and across the South West, amid reports that the current heatwave is putting pressure on the health service all across the country. The South Western Ambulance Service (SWAST) has confirmed to Bristol Live that it is at REAP Level Four – the highest alert level.
All other ambulance services in the UK are also on that level, according to the Sunday Times. Their health editor Shaun Lintern wrote on Twitter that this was due to “heatwave pressures and massive delays outside hospitals”.
Patients are being seen stuck outside A&Es in ambulances because warm weather has encouraged ‘respiratory illnesses’, according to the Mirror. And a health executive in the Midlands reportedly told The Health Service Journal that the worst is yet to come.
An extreme amber heat warning has been issued by the Met Office for Bristol this weekend – a rare occurrence amid warnings that there could be ‘danger to life’. Today’s weather (July 12) was forecast to see temperatures reach 26°C in Bristol, and this is expected to climb up by the weekend to highs of 28°C on Saturday.
According to official NHS documents, moving to REAP Level Four means that pressure is so high that the local health and care system is “unable to deliver comprehensive care”. This means that there is increased potential for the care and safety of patients to be “compromised”.
It also means that “decisive action” must be taken locally to ensure patient safety, and that if the local health services have taken all possible action to solve the problem, then “extensive support” is required. And if multiple health systems across the country are stuck on level four for “sustained periods of time” and there is an impact “across local and regional boundaries”, then “national action” may be taken.
SWAST did not respond when asked to explain what being at level four means for the local health service.