Current projects
Heatwave Plan evaluation
Heatwave Plan evaluation

As a result of global warming, many countries, including the UK, are experiencing increasing periods of hot weather, or heatwaves. These are a risk to public health, as high temperatures can lead to an increase in mortality and morbidity, particularly among vulnerable people. For example, the heatwave in 2003 led to an extra 2,000 deaths in the UK.

The Heatwave Plan for England (HWP) was developed as a result of that heatwave. The HWP aims to ‘prepare for, alert people to, and prevent major avoidable effects on health during periods of severe heat in England' (Public Health England 2015). It includes a Heat-Health alert system and provides advice and guidance on the dangers of hot weather to the public and to health and social care agencies. However, there is, not much information on how effective the HWP is and how it is being implemented locally, particularly at the frontline of health and social care.

PIRU has been asked by the Department of Health and Public Health England to carry out an independent evaluation of the HWP so that it may be improved in future years.

Our evaluation is looking at three broad questions:

  • Has the introduction of the HWP in 2004 had any effect in terms of reducing mortality?
  • How well is the HWP being implemented locally, including at the ‘frontline’ of health and care services?
  • Is the general population aware of the risks of heat and overheating buildings, and do they change their behaviour as a result of hearing heat alerts/advice, and do they take any actions to prevent potential effects of hot weather?

There will be three strands to our mixed methods evaluation:

  • A time-series analysis of regional health data will look at the relationships between temperature and mortality/morbidity before and after the introduction of the HWP in 2004.
  • A number of detailed case studies will look at how the HWP is implemented in selected local authorities.
  • A national survey will explore the knowledge, attitudes and behaviour of the general population during heatwaves.

The project will run from spring 2017 to autumn 2018.

It is expected that the findings from the evaluation will identify opportunities for improving the HWP in future years.

A report from the study should be available in late 2018.