Feeling the heat: a British Red Cross briefing on heatwaves in the UK

Evidencing the increasing risk of heatwaves in the UK, exploring public perceptions, and setting out solutions.

Overview of the report

The UK is getting hotter. As a result of climate change, heatwaves are becoming longer and more extreme, and many people’s health and wellbeing are suffering as a result.

Our report, Feeling the Heat, summarises trends, consequences and solutions relating to extreme heat in the UK. The research draws on existing literature, expert interviews, and the results of a new survey of 2,000 UK adults exploring public awareness of heatwaves in the UK.

Impacts of heatwaves can be serious, but they are also preventable and they don't need to be deadly. However, the research highlights a 'perception gap' in the UK, on the health impacts of heat, and suggests more work is needed to inform people about the risk of extreme heat, and the ways in which they may be at risk.

The report sets out a number of simple steps people can take to protect themselves and others from extreme heat, as well as making recommendations for policymakers.

Key recommendations for policy makers

Our recommendations are designed to support governments and emergency partners to deliver a truly human-centred approach to working with and supporting communities and those who are most vulnerable to heat.

 

1. The UK and devolved governments should recognise the human impact of heatwaves and prioritise the issue in key strategic and policy agendas.

  • The UK government should prioritise heat risk planning, response, recovery and learning, and the needs of the most vulnerable in the upcoming National Resilience Strategy and the upcoming Single Adverse Weather and Health Plan.
  • Devolved governments should develop a strategic plan to respond to heatwaves, to ensure effective coordination across government, agencies, communities and the voluntary and community sector (VCS).
  • UK, devolved, and local governments need to work together to invest in short-, medium- and longer-term climate adaptation action that tackles indoor and outdoor heat

2. People most vulnerable to extreme heat should be able to access targeted information and support, to allow them to act quickly and stay safe and well during a heatwave. This should include ensuring the following needs are met:

  • Immediate practical needs
  • Mental health and emotional support
  • Information and communication
  • Advice, support, and advocacy

3. The VCS and local communities should be equipped with the skills, resources, and tools to promote early action in response to heat warnings.

  • Local Resilience Forums and local authorities should embed the role of VCS organisations and local communities in heatwave outreach plans.
  • UK and devolved governments should enshrine a clearer role for the VCS in all heatwave and extreme weather and health strategic plans.