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Heatwave: chief nurse insists nurses drink water on wards

Ruth May tweets ‘it’s crucial’ that all care staff drink water at nursing stations and urges employers to ensure nurses stay hydrated during shifts

Ruth May tweets ‘it’s crucial’ that all care staff drink water at nursing stations and urges employers to ensure nurses stay hydrated during shifts

The Met Office has issued a red warning for severe heat, with forecasters predicting temperatures could hit 40C in Peterborough on Tuesday – the hottest it has been since records began.

With the heatwave set to peak this week, NHS England chief nurse Ruth May called on employers to ensure that nurses can stay hydrated.

Unions and other nurses welcome chief nurse’s clear message

Ruth May tweets ‘it’s crucial’ that all care staff drink water at nursing stations and urges employers to ensure nurses stay hydrated during shifts

England’s chief nurse Ruth May urges employers to allow nurses to drink water at nursing stations during shifts
Picture: iStock

The Met Office has issued a red warning for severe heat, with forecasters predicting temperatures could hit 40C in Peterborough on Tuesday – the hottest it has been since records began.

With the heatwave set to peak this week, NHS England chief nurse Ruth May called on employers to ensure that nurses can stay hydrated.

Unions and other nurses welcome chief nurse’s clear message

Ms May tweeted: ‘I’ve heard reports that some #teamCNO colleagues are being told not to drink water at nurses stations. It’s crucial that all nursing, midwifery and care staff are able to drink water and stay hydrated during a shift at nursing stations or other convenient locations.

‘This is especially important during the hot weather and as temperatures are set to rise. Equally, we need to ensure patients stay hydrated too. #BeatTheHeat’

Some nurses say access to water during shifts in the summer months is difficult

Ms May’s clarity was welcomed by other nurses and union chiefs, as some staff said they were restricted from drinking water at work.

The RCN’s director for England Patricia Marquis replied: ‘Thanks Ruth, we've heard the same.

‘Nursing staff must have easy access to water to rehydrate themselves always, but particularly in a heatwave.’

One nurse, Fiona Johnson, said: ‘This sadly isn't a new thing – has been the case for years. Always comes to the forefront in summer and yet nothing seems to change.

‘The claim is “infection control’’. Needless to say it stopped me doing extra shifts on the wards!’

The Met Office has issued its first red warning for extreme heat, warning of a ‘potentially very serious situation’ in parts of England.

The UK Health Security Agency has increased its heat health warning from level three to level four – a ‘national emergency’.

Well ventilated environments and rehydration ‘essential in every care setting’, says RCN

Level four is reached ‘when a heatwave is so severe and/or prolonged that its effects extend outside the health and social care system... At this level, illness and death may occur among the fit and healthy, and not just in high-risk groups’, it said.

RCN Professional lead for Public Health Helen Donovan said: ‘If nurses do not have the time and resources to take care of themselves, the care they can give patients will be impacted.

‘Well ventilated environments, encouraging people to drink water and time to rest and rehydrate are essential in every care setting.’


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