Creating climate-resilient health care for older people: conversation starters

As our climate change project progresses, we’re beginning to appreciate just how important cross-sectoral collaboration will be in finding ways to deal with the impacts of our changing climate. In this guest blog, project participant Janine Aldridge from Age UK London, shares her experiences of attending a London NHS event earlier this year on creating climate resilient health services.

small_Janine_AldridgeWith a room at London’s City Hall packed with healthcare professionals, I soon realised that I was the only attendee from the voluntary sector at this meeting in March.

With a title of ‘Increasing Resilience and Adapting to Climate Change’, this session aimed to:

  • raise awareness of climate risks to the health sector; and share how to better mainstream resilience/adaptation measures
  • consider integrating climate risks into the risk assessment process
  • discuss how to move from identification to risk management.

As my organisation is taking part in NCVO’s vulnerable people and climate change project to explore how Age UK London’s own work could be affected, I was hoping that this would be a valuable insight for me into how climate change will impact on the workings of healthcare services – and what that could mean for the older people that use these services – our beneficiaries.

Eye openers

Issues that I had never considered before were brought up – for instance, how air conditioning in hospitals can affect older people and how hospitals can have ‘cold’ and ‘hot’ spots in the building.

Group discussions helped us to identify other issues including:

  • If transport is disrupted eg by flooding, this will affect older or vulnerable people in getting to the hospital or their healthcare services.
  • Hospital water supplies affected by drought or air pollution exacerbated by extreme heat could also have particular impacts on an older person’s stay in hospital.

Joined up planning

The main conclusion to come from the session was that healthcare trusts need joined up climate ready contingency plans with buy in from the board, CEOs and finance directors. Climate change needs to be viewed as an important risk factor for the health service and adaptations need to be made across all models of healthcare.

It was also agreed that more workshops like this one are needed and that partnership working across the healthcare trust and government departments will help the profession achieve its goals.

Don’t forget the voluntary sector!

I think, though, that the event could have benefitted from more representatives from voluntary organisations so that other vulnerable groups could be represented. The other participants were certainly interested to hear about what Age UK London does, and to hear that we were also organising an event for our members on how climate change can affect older Londoners, as part of the NCVO project.

Hopefully, my presence at the event will have prompted the organisers to invite others from the voluntary sector to get involved in these discussions.

The value of our reach

I certainly think that Age UK London could help take these issues further. We have lots of direct contact with older people which could be really valuable for informing our understanding of the particular implications of climate change for this part of society. For example, we could gather feedback on problems older people currently encounter from the effects of extreme weather, to help shape health service resilience plans.

Finding more opportunities like this to share insights on climate impacts will be crucial in building a climate resilient society. But don’t leave the voluntary sector out in the cold!

Janine Aldridge Policy and Voice Administrator Age UK London/Greater London Forum for Older People

Read the workshop notes [Word 25KB]

View the presentation on likely climate impacts for Croydon Health Services [PDF 30KB]

Read the London Climate Change Partnership briefing London’s Changing Climate: in sickness and in health

This entry was posted in Members, Training and events and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

Like this? Read more

Posts written by guests who have contributed to NCVO projects and events.

Comments are closed.