More than 3,000 heat-related deaths were recorded in England and Wales this summer as temperature-records were smashed across the UK.
The joint report between the UK Health Security Agency and the Office of National Statistics found that during five so-called “heat-periods” between June and August this year, 3,271 excess deaths were recorded. The largest number of excess deaths – 2,227 – were recorded during the hot weather between 10 and 25 July.
The UK recorded 40.3C in Coningsby in Lincolnshire on 19 July, the highest temperature since records began. Temperature records in Wales and Scotland were also broken, reaching 37.1C in Hawarden, Flintshire and 34.8C in Charterhall in the Scottish borders.
The July heatwave caused the Met Office to issue its first extreme heat weather warning covering much of England, and the government announced the first national heatwave emergency for 18 and 19 July.
A heat-period includes days when a Level 3 heat health alert is in place or days when the mean tempearture in central England is greater than 20C, plus the day preceding and day after this criteria has been met. The heat health alert is designed to act as an early warning system to help healthcare professionals manage the period of extreme heat.
The average number of deaths per day was higher on a “heat-period” day than on others, and the analysis finds that it is likely vulnearble people may have died a few days or weeks earlier than expected due to the heat.
Over this period, 2,803 excess-deaths were recorded among thosed aged 65 years and over in England, the highest number since the introduction of the heatwave plan for England in 2004. During the hottest part of the summer 17-20 July, more than 250 excess deaths were recorded a day for those aged 65 and over. The excess deaths excludes covid-related deaths.
“These estimates show clearly that high temperatures can be a fast and unsuspecting killer for those who are vulnerable,” said Isabel Oliver, chief scientific officer at the UK Health Security Agency. “Higher excess deaths occurred during the hottest days this year and a warming climate means we must adapt to living safely with hotter summers in the future.
“Prolonged periods of hot weather are a particular risk for elderly people, those with heart and lung conditions or people who are unable to keep themselves cool such as people with learning disabilities and Alzheimer’s disease.”
There were more excess deaths among women than men this summer.
The summer was the joint warmest on record for England alongside 2018.
On 19 July, the UK’s previous temperature record of 38.7C was met or exceeded at 46 stations from Kent to Yorkshire and seven stations recorded maximum temperatures in excess of 40C, according to the Met Office.
Sarah Caul, head of mortality analysis at the ONS, said that despite peaks in mortality during heatwaves, the majority of days in the winter show a higher number of deaths than we see during the summer.