The Met Office has warned that people’s lives could be at risk as it indicated it is likely that a new UK record temperature could be set early next week.
Meteorologists gave an 80% chance of the mercury topping the UK’s record temperature of 38.7C (101.7F) set in Cambridge in 2019, with the current heatwave set to peak on Tuesday.
There is a 50% chance of temperatures reaching 40C somewhere in the UK, likely along the A1 corridor, with the Met Office issuing its first ever red warning for extreme heat.
Last year, there were two short periods of heatwave in the UK which were cooler than the temperatures forecast next week and more than 1,600 excess deaths were recorded, a senior health source said.
The source said that they “expect” to see excess deaths but that these are “avoidable” if people take simple action to keep cool.
The UK Health Security Agency has increased its heat health warning from level three to level four – a “national emergency”.
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.
Met Office spokesman Grahame Madge said: “If people have vulnerable relatives or neighbours, now is the time to make sure they’re putting suitable measures in place to be able to cope with the heat because if the forecast is as we think it will be in the red warning area, then people’s lives are at risk.
“This is a very serious situation.”
Milton Keynes University Hospital has stood down routine outpatient appointments and surgery on Monday and Tuesday, its chief executive Joe Harrison said.
He said this was because many patients travelling to such appointments are “frail and at increased risk”, and “due to the unpredictable nature of very high temperatures on demand for emergency care”.
Met Office spokesman Mr Madge said there is an 80% chance of the all-time UK temperature record being broken, and a 50% chance of temperatures of 40C being reached somewhere in the UK.
“Most likely that would be within the red warning area for extreme heat,” said Mr Madge.
“Probably the most likely areas to look at would be north of London and up to Lincolnshire, inland.
“Somewhere like Peterborough, Grantham, Sandy, Stevenage, those sorts of areas, A1 corridor.”
— Met Office (@metoffice) July 15, 2022
He said that temperatures reaching 40C would be a “historic event”.
“If we get to 40C that’s a very iconic threshold and shows that climate change is with us now,” he said.
“This is made much more likely because of climate change.”
The analysis by researchers at The University of Manchester for Friends of the Earth, identifies the areas & communities across England set to be hardest hit by extreme heat.
'Millions more at risk from dangerous summer temps if climate goals aren’t met'https://t.co/EiiHBFe9FF
— Friends of the Earth (@FoEAustralia) July 14, 2022
Mike Childs, head of science, policy and research at Friends of the Earth, said: “Each year, the effects of climate breakdown are becoming more evident and more severe.
“Without meaningful Government intervention, millions of Brits, particularly older people and young children, will be at increasing risk from health-threatening heatwaves like the one we’re experiencing.”
A No 10 spokesman said railway speed restrictions may be needed on “some parts of the network next week to manage the hot weather and to avoid any potential damage”.
Jake Kelly, of Network Rail, warned that journeys will take “significantly longer and delays are likely as speed restrictions are introduced to keep passengers and railway staff safe”, urging people to travel only if absolutely necessary on Monday and Tuesday.
Downing Street said that that Cobra met on Thursday amid the heatwave, and discussions with sectors including the NHS will “continue to work closely with all of those sectors over today, through the weekend and into early next week”.
Meanwhile, motorists have been advised to try to make their journeys outside of the hottest periods of the day, particularly if they have older cars.
Sean Sidley, AA patrol of the year, said: “There are reports of road gritters being out this weekend to reduce the chances of our roads melting.
“If it does get sticky on the roads there’s nothing worse than being stuck in a jam with the mercury rising, so make sure you carry plenty of water – at least a litre per person – and sufficient fuel, or if you’re driving an electric vehicle (EV) – make sure you have plenty of charge so you can use the air-conditioning when needed.”
Tim Doran, from the RNLI Water Safety Team said the service was anticipating a “busy weekend” for its lifeboat crews and lifeguards.
“If you are planning on going to the beach, we would encourage you to visit a lifeguarded beach and swim between the red and yellow flags,” he said.
North Wales Police said a paddleboarder died after getting into difficulty in the water off Conwy Morfa beach on Thursday evening.
Officers were called at 10.14pm and attended alongside the coastguard, RNLI and ambulance service, with two casualties taken to hospital in Bangor, where one of them, a 24-year-old woman, died.
The force said the local coroner has been informed, and specialist officers will be supporting the family of the deceased.
Elsewhere, the British Horseracing Authority has announced that Monday’s meetings at Beverley and Windsor and Tuesday’s fixtures at Chelmsford, Southwell and Wolverhampton have been called off due to the extreme heat warning.
Tuesday’s 2022 Standard Chartered Great City Race, which was due to see more than 5,000 people complete a 5k route in the City of London, has been postponed due to the forecast high temperatures, London Marathon Events said.