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Advice for nurses and employers as UK faces heatwave

RCN says staff must have time to rehydrate and take breaks in warm weather

RCN says staff must have time to rehydrate and take breaks in warm weather

Nurse's hand holding a glass of water
Picture: iStock

The RCN is urging employers to give nursing staff time to rehydrate and take breaks as a heatwave is set to sweep the UK.

With temperatures expected to soar to 34°C this week, the RCN called on employers to allow nursing staff to wear looser fitting and cooler scrubs to beat the heat.  

Posing a challenge

Kim Sunley
The RCN’s Kim Sunley

RCN national employment officer Kim Sunley said: ‘While there is a personal responsibility for all of us to look after our own health, it is the duty of employers to ensure staff have access to drinking water, the time to rehydrate (and go to the toilet) and that the working environment is adequately ventilated.'

Care for patients could be affected if employers do not give nurses the time and resources to look after themselves during the hot weather, Ms Sunley added.

‘The sun is a welcome change for most of us, but warm weather poses a real challenge to busy nursing staff,’ she said. 'Caring for patients in a pressurised environment can make it difficult to get time to rest and hydrate.'

Staying safe

The call comes after NHS England’s chief nursing officer (CNO) Ruth May issued advice for members of the public on how to stay safe during the hot weather.


CNO Ruth May Picture: Barney Newman

The CNO urged anyone with concerns regarding heat-related conditions to contact NHS 111 or go to its website to check symptoms.

Almost 3,000 people were admitted to hospital in England due to heat-related illnesses in 2017-18. This included 632 cases of severe sunburn, 100 cases of heat exhaustion and 223 cases of sun and heat stroke.

In July 2018, 230,611 people searched the NHS.uk website for information on heat exhaustion, up from 137,743 in May 2018.

Dr May said: ‘The NHS will be there always for anyone who needs it, but everyone can help by checking in on vulnerable friends and neighbours, while making use of the free, convenient and helpful phone and online NHS services for minor illnesses, to help front-line staff provide care for those in emergency and serious need.'


Further information

RCN’s Rest, Rehydrate, Refuel guidelines 


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