Objectives: To investigate the effects of high ambient temperatures, including the summer 2003 heat-episode, on NHS Direct usage and its suitability as a surveillance tool in heat health warning systems. Methods: Analyses of data on calls to NHS Direct in English Regions in the period Dec 2001-May 2004. Outcomes were daily rates of all symptomatic calls, and daily proportion of calls for selected causes (fever, vomiting, diffi culty breathing, heat-/sun-stroke). Results: Total calls were moderately increased as environmental temperature increased; this effect was greatest in calls for young children and for fever. Total calls were moderately elevated during two summer heat episodes in 2003: calls specifically for heat/sun stroke increased acutely in response to these episodes. No association was apparent between environmental temperature and proportion of calls for vomiting and difficulty breathing. Conclusions: Calls to NHS Direct are sensitive to daily temperatures and extreme weather. NHS Direct is timely and has great potential in health surveillance. Calls for heat- and sun-stroke are now routinely monitored as part of the UK Heat-wave plan.
- NHS Direct
- Primary care