Cold weather continues across the UK

30 11 2012

http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/image/b/i/old_lady_image.jpg

The drier, colder and frosty weather currently affecting the UK has given some significant relief to those who have been hit by the heavy rain and floods over the last week or so. However, cold weather presents its own problems to the public too, not just from frost, ice and snow, but from its impact upon our health.

The link between the onset of cold weather and its effects on health is documented extensively in research journals, in the UK. Older people are particularly at risk as they do not feel the cold until their body temperature falls. People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) also have a significantly increased risk of ill-health and hospitalisation during periods of cold weather and high levels of circulating respiratory infections. So many people are affected by the wider impacts of cold weather.

From 1 November 2012, the Met Office launched its Healthy Outlook® service, which is a telehealth alert service, available to patients through participating GP practices. Upon registering, patients receive a pack full of useful tips and contact information to keep them well during the winter months. Each registered patient will also receive a recorded voice call when conditions are forecast that are expected to increase the risk of symptoms becoming worse. The alert aims to give COPD patients sufficient advance warning to avoid the cold weather and keep well. The service aims to minimise the likelihood of a COPD-related exacerbation for patients and the consequential hospital admittance.

Katie Russell, Business Health Manager at the Met Office, said: “Even short periods of extreme cold temperature can cause serious illness for COPD patients. The Met Office has created Healthy Outlook® to help people with COPD take control of their own health. We monitor environmental conditions and warn people when their health is likely to be affected, giving them the opportunity to take action to stay well.”

As well as our standard service, we are also trialling Healthy Outlook® in selected high street retail pharmacies across the UK. This trial of the service will allow people to still take advantage of Healthy Outlook® even if their primary care trust (PCT) has not signed up. Healthy Outlook® is also available for the first time, online, through an e-pharmacy, giving further reach and support to those suffering from COPD.

Jane Devenish, Clinical Services Pharmacist at The Co-operative Pharmacy, said: “Offering Healthy Outlook® online means those who may be unable to leave the house can have access to this simple, yet effective service to help them prepare for periods when the weather takes a turn for the worse, and so they can reduce the risk of their condition flaring up.”

Forecasters at the Met Office are predicting more unsettled weather during next week but it looks like it will remain on the cold side, so it is important to stay up to date with the latest forecasts and warnings.





World COPD Awareness Day – it’s not too late

14 11 2012

Today is “World COPD Awareness Day” and is based around the theme of “It’s Not Too Late”. The day is organised by the Global Initiative for Chronic Obstructive Lung Disease (GOLD) to improve awareness and care of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) around the world. This positive message was chosen to emphasize the meaningful actions people can take to improve their respiratory health, at any stage before or after a COPD diagnosis.

The theme for this year’s World COPD day strongly reflects the work that the Met Office is doing to develop a health forecast that aims to ease the worsening symptoms that patients suffer from as a direct result of weather conditions and virus levels in the air.

The Healthy Outlook® service helps patients suffering with COPD stay informed about, and take positive action against any potential adverse cold weather periods that may have an effect on their well-being. It’s not just the patients that benefit either, Healthy Outlook® also gives professionals and patients the opportunity to take action by giving them advance warning of colder weather and circulating infections. Studies have shown that a 20 per cent reduction in hospital admissions can be achieved through the service, which helps patients to stay out of hospital and reduce pressures on GP surgery staff and budgets.

To broaden the reach of our service, Healthy Outlook® is also being trialed in-store in selected major retail pharmacies to give those suffering from COPD a more flexible method of managing their condition. By signing up to the service through the pharmacy retail outlets, patients can benefit from COPD forecast alerts even if their local PCT is not involved. This means that means more people with COPD will be able to get improved access to advice and support.

Katie Russell, Met Office Business Manager for Health, said: “We are excited to be working with the NHS and GPs surgeries again this year, as well as running pilot Healthy Outlook® services in retail pharmacies. The Met Office has been involved in COPD Health forecasting for a number of years and we are thrilled to be able to expand our network of expertise and support this winter.

“We have two major retail pharmacies working with us to broaden the reach of Healthy Outlook® and we are all keen to see how the pilots work across the UK.  The involvement of the Co-operative Pharmacy is proving to be a valuable route for patients to receive the service.”

When patients sign up to the service they will receive a patient pack containing advice and tools that can help them to manage their condition. They will also be alerted to conditions in the environment which are expected to increase the risk of symptoms of COPD becoming worse by an automated telephone call to a number of their choice.

Jane Devenish, Clinical Services Pharmacist at The Co-operative Pharmacy, said: “People with COPD can do a number of things to reduce the risk of their condition flaring up, such as minimising exposure to cold air and making sure they don’t run out of medication. With the alerts that are received through the Healthy Outlook® service people can make sure they are prepared for the periods when the weather takes a turn for the worse.”





Healthy Outlook® – helping patients with COPD this winter.

1 11 2012

Alongside our Cold Weather Alert Service this winter, the Met Office is working with the NHS and Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) to help keep people well at times of severe cold weather with our specially produced Healthy Outlook® service. The service helps patients suffering with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) stay informed about any potential adverse cold weather periods that may have an effect on their well-being. Healthy Outlook® also gives professionals and patients the opportunity to take action by giving them advance warning of colder weather and circulating infections.

COPD is the term used to describe a number of conditions, including chronic bronchitis and emphysema, where people have difficulty breathing because of long-term damage to their lungs. Poor weather conditions, such as extreme cold in winter can exacerbate COPD symptoms and contribute to breathing difficulties which often leads to a spell in hospital for the patient. There are around 30,000 COPD-related deaths each year in the UK and it is the second highest cause of emergency hospital admissions.

Katie Russell, Met Office Business Manager for Health, said: “We are excited to be working with the NHS and GPs surgeries again this year. The Met Office has been involved in COPD Health forecasting for a number of years and feedback from patients shows that 82% found Healthy Outlook® helped them manage their COPD better during periods of cold weather.”

This winter, Healthy Outlook® is also being trialled in-store in selected retail pharmacies to give those suffering from COPD a more flexible method of managing their condition. By signing up to the service through the retail outlets, patients can benefit from COPD forecast alerts even if their local PCT is not involved.

As with the standard service, patients will receive a pack containing advice and tools that can help them to manage their condition.  An automated telephone call to a number of their choice will also alert them to conditions in the environment which are expected to increase the risk of symptoms of COPD becoming worse.

The latest information about the weather and warnings can be found on the Met Office website, iPhone and Android apps and on twitter. Further information on Healthy Outlook can be found on the Met Office’s Cold weather and health web pages.








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