According to figures, more than 2,500 people died in England this summer as a result of three heatwaves.
There were an estimated 2,556 additional deaths during the three heat waves in late June, late July and August, with people 65 and older making up the vast majority of those who died, data from Public Health England (PHE) shows.
Climate change increases the likelihood of periods of extreme heat, including tropical nights when the temperature never drops below 20C, such as in August this year.
Heat waves cause premature deaths from heart, kidney and respiratory disease, strain health and social services, and affect well-being and productivity.
The growing threat of heat waves has prompted experts to warn of the need to adapt homes, hospitals and care homes to protect vulnerable groups such as the elderly from the effects of high temperatures.
Figures for the additional deaths associated with this summer’s hot spells have been calculated by comparing the number of all-cause deaths on heat wave days to the average of the seven days before and after the hot weather, and by the estimated number of deaths from to remove the coronavirus.
The number of people who died in the heat in 2020 was comparable to the 2,234 additional deaths from the heat wave across Europe in 2003 and the 2,323 who died in the heat wave in 2006, PHE said.
But it was the highest number of deaths since the heatwave plan was introduced for England to protect health from blistering weather in the wake of the 2003 event.
Heat waves hit England three times this summer, first five days from June 23 to 27, then three days from July 30 to August 1, and third for 11 days from August 5 to 15.
The third heat wave was by far the worst, with 1,734 additional deaths.
While it was long lasting and intense, with very high temperatures recorded during the day and at night, that alone doesn’t explain the magnitude of the magnitude of the effects, PHE said.
More work is needed to see how the risks from both Covid-19 and heat waves could have combined at the same time to increase their impact, it said.
Dr. Friederike Otto, acting director of the Environmental Change Institute at the University of Oxford, said the likelihood of heat waves in Western Europe in recent summers has increased more than 10 times and they are hotter than without climate change. by human activity.
“High temperatures are a reason for the prosperous, young and healthy part of society to go to the beach, but they are very dangerous for the more vulnerable parts of society.
“Heat waves are by far the most deadly effects of climate change, and they occur now, not in the distant future,” she warned.
Dr. Sandy Robertson, of the UK Health Alliance on Climate Change and an emergency drug, said: “During heatwaves, the increased pressure on A&E waiting rooms is clearly visible.
“Dehydration and overheating can have serious health consequences and exacerbate existing health problems.
“Unless the government takes urgent action to address the climate emergency, the number of additional deaths from heat waves is likely to increase year after year.”
The figures also show that London and the South East have seen the highest deaths, with 488 in the capital across the three heat waves and 724 in South East England.
Of the total number of additional deaths, 2,244 were persons aged 65 and older.