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10 Tips for Nurses & Care Staff Working in Hot Weather

Matt B

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With the hot weather is set to continue this week it is important we keep both healthcare professionals and patients safe.

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It doesn’t matter if you work in a hospital, GP surgery, clinic, theatre or in the community. The hot weather affects us all, increases the risk of dehydration and heat stress for healthcare professionals and patients alike.

If you feel your work environment is too hot you should speak to senior managers and estates department promptly. They have a responsibility to ensure both patients and staff are comfortable – you should ask them to implement your local ‘Heatwave Policy’ and contingency planning procedures.

According to The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Act there are no maximum temperatures but employers must take ‘every possible step’ to ensure their employees are safe and “comfortable”.

Here are a few tips to keep both you, as a nurse or healthcare professional, and your patients safe;

  • Keep hydrated. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink. Have water on hand all day and drink little and often. You should verbally encourage other co-workers to do this as well. The appropriate use of IV Fluids should be implemented for patients who are not drinking.
  • Keep a bottle or jug of water nearby. You are more inclined to drink when fluid is readily available. Aim to refill any jugs or bottles every couple of hours.
  • Look at the colour of urine. Dark coloured urine can often signify dehydration as can hypotension. Be vigilant and act on signs of dehydration.
  • Feel fresh. Washing your face or using a cool spray can help you fresh.
  • Avoid caffeinated drinks. Caffeine can have a diuretic effect which increases water loss and contributes to dehydration try and stick to water or squash if you can.
  • Keep blinds and curtains drawn. Try to keep your working environment out of direct sunlight.
  • Stay out of the sun. Don’t go out between 11am and 3pm – the hottest part of the day.
  • Wear loose clothing. Wear thin and loose clothing for work if possible – ideally surgical scrubs. Ensure patients are dressed, but appropriately.
  • Work smarter – not harder. Where possible schedule harder work and physically demanding tasks for cooler parts of the day. When this is unavoidable, consider sharing the load / rotating with another co-worker.
  • Take breaks. You’ll need your breaks more than ever! Make effective use of your breaks. Sit, put your feet up and get some fresh air.
  • Open windows at night. The air will be cooler in the evenings or at night. Open windows at this time to bring in some fresh-air.

Don’t suffer in silence. Discuss any concerns you have with senior colleagues and managers. Hospitals, care homes and local authorities should have contingency plans and equipment in place for heatwaves.

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Primary Care

NHS trusts pressuring staff to help meet vaccination targets

Sarah J

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Front-line staff are reporting that NHS trusts are pressuring staff into receiving the influenza vaccine in order to achieve governmental targets.

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Front-line NHS staff claim they are getting ever-increasing pressure to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine as cash-strapped NHS trusts strive to hit the ‘Flu Fighter’ CQUIN, which provides significant financial incentives for trusts who vaccinate a proportion of their staff.

This news follows last weeks announcement that NHS England will write to all healthcare workers reminding them of their “professional duty” to receive the seasonal influenza vaccine.

One member of staff, who wishes to remain anonymous, claims she was forced to sign a ‘Declination of Influenza Vaccine‘ document by their NHS Trust which states refusal of the vaccine may have ‘life-threatening’ consequences and asks for the reason for refusal.

A spokesperson for NursingNotes said;

“While receiving the vaccine is an important part of infection control, like any patient, staff must provide informed consent and have a right to refuse the vaccination”.

A spokesperson for the RCN said:

“We encourage all nursing staff to have the vaccine. It plays an important part in infection control and preventing sickness absence”.

The NHS Employers ‘Flu Fighter’ campaign is part of an initiative to improve the health and wellbeing of NHS employees.

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Patients could be banned from A&E unless a healthcare professional refers them

Ian Snug

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The “talk before you walk” scheme could see patients barred from using A&E without first seeking healthcare advice elsewhere.

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Under “talk before you walk” proposals, patients would need to gain approval from either their GP or the NHS 111 advice line before self-presenting to an accident and emergency department and could be turned away without this.

The scheme is intended to improve compliance of the 4-hour target by sign-posting patients to more appropriate services.

The news comes as health services prepare, for what many experts claim will be, the “worst winter on record” for emergency care services.

Dr Helen Thomas, National Medical Advisor for Integrated Urgent Care at NHS England, said:

“Jeremy Hunt has mentioned to some of my colleagues, maybe we should have a ‘talk before you walk’ and we may well pilot that.

“I think it’s been done in other countries where they’ve actually said you can’t come to the emergency department until you’ve talked on referral or you have to have that sort of docket that you’re given by having talked down the phone and being told you should come in.”

But the British Medical Association (BMA) said forcing ill patients to go through an extra layer of bureaucracy would cause further delays and could compromise emergency care pathways.

A spokesman for NHS England said there were no current plans to go ahead with the scheme.

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