Elderly warned to stay indoors as icy weather is expected to increase pressure on A&E departments

Manchester Evening News: 12/01/2015

The severe cold weather warning comes as hospitals across Greater Manchester are already struggling to cope

Elderly people are being urged to stay indoors as icy weather is forecast to pile extra pressure on the region’s embattled A&E units.

Health chiefs have issued a cold-weather alert after the Met Office warned severe cold weather was on the way for Greater Manchester.

Gale force winds, heavy rain, snow, sleet and hail are all forecast to hit in the coming days.

The alert comes as A&Es across Greater Manchester are already struggling to cope with winter pressures.

Experts say hospitals are under extra strain this winter because of the large number of elderly patients with complex health conditions who need admitting for treatment.

A spokesman for the North West Ambulance Service, which has seen an 11.5 per cent increase in 999 calls this month compared with January last year, said: “We would ask people to look out for elderly neighbours, friends and relatives, and to help them out where they can.

“We would also encourage people, particularly the elderly, to only go out if it is absolutely necessary.”

People are being urged to wear appropriate clothing and footwear and to stock up on food and medicines. They are also being urged to plan their journeys.

Every hospital trust in the region has failed for three weeks running to meet its target to admit, discharge or transfer 95pc of patients within four hours.

The M.E.N. told at the weekend how Stepping Hill was the worst in the country for A&E waiting times in the week ending January 4.

It saw just 59.3pc of A&E patients within the four-hour target.

Another hospital, the Royal Bolton, declared a ‘major incident’ because it was struggling to cope with winter pressures.

But the national A&E crisis has happened even though flu, cold weather and the winter vomiting bug have not yet properly hit.

Dr Angie Bone, head of extreme events and health protection at Public Health England, said: “The impact of cold weather is felt most by older people, the very young and those who have pre-existing health conditions.”

She said people should take time to check on elderly neighbours and help to protect their health this winter.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “This weather could increase the health risks to vulnerable patients and disrupt the delivery of services.”