London Ambulance Service prepares for coldest winter in a decade

The London Ambulance Service is preparing for an increase in calls after the Met Office issued a regional warning of severe weather this morning affecting Greater London.

The Met Office is warning snow showers will be heavy in places today (27 December 2005), with falls of 2 to 5cm likely in places with local accumulations of 10cm possible on high ground and a risk of icy surfaces and some dangerous driving conditions.

The Met Office has predicted that this winter could be the coldest in a decade and past experience shows that when cold weather sets in, the London Ambulance Service is put under additional pressure with an increase in falls, heart attacks, respiratory problems, road collisions, and people calling with flu-like symptoms.

The Service hopes to avoid a repeat of 30 January 2003 when arctic conditions swept across the capital and temperatures plummeted to -16°C. The control room in Waterloo was swamped with more than twice as many calls as the night before, with 742 calls between 9pm and midnight.

Service Medical Director Fionna Moore said: “Of course we want people to call us if they do have a life-threatening emergency but would ask that those with minor illnesses or injuries think about using other healthcare options, for example GPs and pharmacies along with the NHS Direct helpline on 0845 4647 and the NHS Winter Warmth advice line on freephone 0800 085 7000.

“This will enable us to ensure our frontline ambulances are available for people who really need them, such as patients with serious or life-threatening illnesses or injuries, those with chronic illnesses whose condition has declined, and the elderly who are particularly vulnerable at this time of year.

“By following a few simple tips people can do a lot to keep themselves well during the cold winter.

“These include checking the weather forecast so you are prepared, wrapping up warmly, and taking extra care when out and about—people seem to expect everything to work normally in cold weather but this isn’t always the case and I would urge Londoners to plan ahead when driving or using public transport to travel around the capital.”

10 tips to keep well this winter

  • Check that your heating system works properly.
  • Keep the temperature in the room you are using at around 21°C.
  • Dress for warmth and comfort, putting on several thinner layers of clothing to trap the heat.
  • When going outside take extra care to wrap up warm to ensure you are not exposed to the cold and wind.
  • Wear warm, dry, flat boots or shoes with good non-slip soles, especially in frosty or wet weather.
  • Eat a well-balanced diet with hot meals every day.
  • Have regular hot drinks to give you extra warmth and energy.
  • Keep as active as you can—moving around generates extra body heat.
  • Plan ahead by keeping a well-stocked medicine cabinet.
  • Keep an eye on your neighbours to ensure they are looking after themselves.

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Notes to editors

  • The last time the mean winter temperature went below the long-term average in Southern England of 4.5°C was in 1995–1996, when it dropped to 3.5°C.
  • Since then winters have been relatively mild—last winter the mean temperature was 5.2°C.
  • There is a direct link between cold weather and an increase in health problems. When temperatures drop below 0°C the number of deaths from heart attacks peaks three days later, from strokes five days later, and from respiratory infections 10 days later.

For further information about the London Ambulance Service or this news release please contact the communications department on 020 7921 5113 or 07770 646595.