Health chiefs' hot weather alcohol advice 'patronising' and 'banal'

Thomas Hornall
Tens of thousands are expected to head to the beaches this weekend - PA

Government agencies should stop giving out “patronising” and “banal” advice in the event of sunny weather, critics have said, after health chiefs issued a bank holiday alcohol warning.

Public Health England (PHE) has been accused of having a “very low opinion” of the public’s intelligence for publishing advice cautioning against excess alcohol consumption and spending too long in the sun.

It followed forecasts predicting this could be the hottest August bank holiday on record, with a maximum predicted temperature of 32 degrees Celsius.

This, however, is well below the 38.7 spike recorded last month and is expected to be welcomed by thousands heading to Britain’s beaches.

PHE on Friday published a list of do’s and don’ts, including advice to apply sunscreen and close curtains on rooms that face the sun.

But the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) think tank said the agency should focus on its role preventing disease.

Christopher Snowdon, IEA’s lifestyle economics lead, said: “It’s well-meaning but incredibly patronising advice.

“Public Health England gets bogged down in far too many areas.

"We've seen this week with the return of measles and the hysteria that there are still genuine public health issues that need dealing with and unfortunately are not being dealt with successfully."

He added: “PHE is spreading its remit too widely, such as issuing banal advice, as they do every time the temperature rises above 20 degrees or below 10 degrees.”

The Met Office predicts high temperatures on Saturday and Sunday with mid to high 20s for much of the country, and 31 to 32 in the south east.

The heat record for the August bank holiday was set in 2001 when a temperature of 31.5 degrees was recorded at Heathrow near London.

It triggered an automatic Level 3 Amber heatwave alert, indicating a 90 per cent or higher probability of three consecutive days where the maximum normal temperature thresholds for a given location are exceeded.

This weekend sees two of the largest music festivals of the summer taking place, at Reading and Leeds, as well as the final three days of the third Ashes test match at Headingley, all of which are billed to go ahead as normal.

“I think everybody knows that you need to keep cool, don’t say in the sun too long, drink some water, whether you’re under 16 or over 75,” said Mr Snowdon. “Its well meaning advice but it is part of a bigger problem.

"We have an air pollution crisis apparently, we are seeing diseases we thought we had seen the back of, sandwiches linked with listeria which people are dying as a result of.

“PHE main role should be tackling infectious diseases but they are obsessed with lifestyle issues, smoking, drinking etc.”

Dr Emer O’Connell, a PHE public health consultant, said: “Much of the advice on beating the heat is common sense and for many people spells of warmer weather are something they very much enjoy.

“However, for some people, such as older people, those with underlying health conditions and young children, the summer heat can bring real health risks. That’s why we’re urging everyone to keep an eye on those you know who may be at risk.”