Tag Archives: Health

Future London Climate Risks Set Out

12 July 2016: The Committee on Climate Change (CCC) Adaptation Sub Committee (ASC) published a major new study today providing a detailed scientific assessment of climate change risks to UK. Further information is provided in the following press release, a summary synthesis report, which also links to the individual six sector chapters – which includes a chapter on ‘People and the Built Environment‘ (which is examined below)..

Below is a summary of some of the points most relevant to London from the synthesis report:

  • Urban water management: climate change is expected to lead to significant increases in heavy rainfall, with sewers in many urban areas already at or over capacity. More action is needed protect individual properties whilst also beginning to redesign urban landscapes (such as through the use of sustainable drainage approaches) to be able to cope with more intense patterns of rainfall. [p32]
  • At present, there are no comprehensive policies in place to adapt existing homes and other buildings to high temperatures, manage urban heat islands, nor safeguard new homes. The level of risk from overheating across the UK is unknown for hospitals, care homes, schools, prisons, and places of work. [p33]
  • The urban heat island effect. UK planning strategies do not currently make specific recommendations for reducing the heat island effect such as through planning and urban design, beyond promoting urban green space. [p34]
  • More action needed to deliver sustainable drainage systems, upgrade sewers where appropriate, and tackle drivers of increasing surface runoff (e.g. impermeable surfacing in urban areas). [p61]
  • Climate-related hazards damage historic structures and sites now, but there is a lack of information on the scale of current and future risks, including for historic urban green spaces and gardens as well as structures.[p66]
  • The action underway in London to assess and manage risks of overheating on public transport should continue, together with similar action as needed elsewhere in the UK. [p66]

Continue reading…

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Heatwave Plan for England

14 May 2014: A new Heatwave Plan for England has been published today by the Public Health England. With respect to London, the Plan mentions:

  • Extreme temperatures on the London Underground network could lead to a range of health and safety challenges.London Underground network operations monitor Met Office weather forecasts, and if temperatures are forecast not to fall below 24°C for three days running they will get ready to implement plans to deploy hot weather notices and bottled water supply, as well as measures to prevent track buckling.
  • On a critical issue for London which is air pollution, the Plan states that – smogs typically accompany heatwaves as these often occur during periods of limited dispersion and /or easterly continental air masses arriving in the UK. As a result pollutants are less well spread or added to a higher background concentration which can lead to high concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter. Heatwave conditions often lead to increased ozone levels following interactions of other pollutants with sunlight.

The Heatwave Plan also mentions a number factors which are likely to put increasing pressure on the supply of electricity – something which is likely to become more important as climate change impacts grow:

  • At a time when energy companies traditionally maintain power stations for the winter by standing units down over the summer, rising temperatures increase the demand for supply due to the use of air-conditioning units and reduce the power-carrying capacity of the system, as it is harder to cool conductors – this will restrict the ‘maintenance window’ available and could ultimately require greater redundancy on the system to permit maintenance.
  • Rising temperatures cause cooling problems for power stations as they are unable to cool components. This effect has been experienced in France, but not yet to a serious extent in the UK.
  • High air temperatures are more of a problem and nuclear reactors can trip out at above 40°C, although this has never yet been reached at any site (38°C being the record).
  • Rising temperatures lower power station efficiency. This effect is of lower concern than the two effects above.
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Are London Health & Wellbeing Boards taking fuel poverty seriously?

July 2013:  The Health and Social care Act 2012 established new Health and Wellbeing Boards for each top tier and unitary authority. These operated in ‘shadow form’ over the period 2012-13 taking on full  statutory functions from April 2013.  The boards have strategic influence over commissioning decisions across health, public health and social care and a new Age UK report has conducted research to “determine whether the newly formed Health and Wellbeing Boards in England are taking fuel poverty as seriously as is needed.”

The  report sets out that : “Every available Health and Wellbeing Strategy published before March 2013 was looked at to determine the influence of fuel poverty on the priorities set by each Health and Wellbeing board. The results are based on the 122 Health and Wellbeing Strategies that were available, and show that

  • More than half of the Health and Wellbeing Boards appear to be side-lining issues surrounding fuel poverty altogether.
  • Only 4% seem to be doing as much as possible to help combat fuel poverty within their local community.
  • Some Boards consider fuel poverty in their community to be decreasing. This could be because they are using figures from 2010, an unusual year when (against the trend) the number of fuel poor households decreased, and before the subsequent round of high fuel price increases. These figures are now outdated and incorrect.”

Each Health and Wellbeing Strategy available was given a rating of between 1 and 5 (indicating poor to excellent respectively).  Of the five example strategies examined and given the worst rating (1), two London local authorities are highlighted – Ealing and Waltham Forest. Worryingly, page 6 of the report sets out the 122 strategies examined, a further 12 London boroughs are rated (1): Barnet, Brent, Bromley, Camden, Hackney, Hillingdon, Hounslow, Islington, Kensington & Chelsea, Lewisham, Merton, Newham.

The City of London, Croydon, Greenwich, Haringey, Harrow, Kingston, Sutton, Westminster are rated (2). Havering and Wandsworth are rated (3). A few boroughs appear to have been omitted from the table on page 6 – but are referenced in the Appendix on page 19. Barking and Dagenham actually scores the highest with a (4), Redbrige a (3), Richmond (2), and Tower Hamlets (1). Strategies for Bexley, Enfield, Hammersmith & Fulham and Lambeth were not available to the survey team. Page 19 also mentions that Southwark’s stategy could not be found.

The results are highly surprising, rating some London local authorities which have significant fuel poverty programmes in place very low (Islington being the most obvious – with its award-winning SHINE programme – which is now also being utilised by Hackney), suggesting that the consultation process that took place to establish these strategies failed to engage properly with relevant officers delivering such services. The Mayor has recently responded to some questions to him regarding his role in raising energy issues to the new Health and Wellbeing Boards – highlighting some recent work undertaken by the London Climate Change Partnership and stating that further guidance ‘bespoke environmental guidance for the 33 health and wellbeing boards in London is curently being drafted (see here and here).  Details of the new London Health Board, also critical to this discussion, can be seen in an earlier post here.

National Energy Action (NEA) held an excellent event earlier this year in Southwark – Achieving public health outcomes on fuel poverty and excess winter deaths – which looked at how health management is being devolved to local authorities and how fuel poverty needs to be integrated in these new strategies. Presentations from the seminar are available here.

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Energy and Climate Questions to the Mayor

July 2013: This month the Mayor has been asked questions in relation to:

the Mayor and climate change denial; whether the Mayor will be publishing an update to his Climate Change Adaptation Strategy; if an audit of the London Energy Efficiency Fund (LEEF) will be undertaken; progress under LEEF; promotion of water efficiency measures; commissioning an energy security of supply study for London; the proposed Memorandum of Understanding between the Mayor and energy suppliers; Energy Performance Certificates (EPCs) and RE:NEW; confirmation of the single loan provided by LEEF; the Transport for London (TfL) energy strategy; TfL emissions action plan; clarification on the Mayor’s policy on waste incineration; fracking in London; the Mayor’s comments on climate prediction; differences between the Mayor’s comments on climate prediction and the London Climate Change Adaptation; the Mayor’s 2013/14 budget for climate adaptation; TfL climate risks action plan; the Mayor’s work with the insurance industry on building regulations; funding a health sector building to be climate resilient; climate risk information to Health & Well Being Boards; the Mayor’s commitment to look at overheating; work on risks related to flooding and critical infrastructure; flood risk data portal; surface water management plan for London; performance of the Green Deal in London; avoiding future electricity blackouts in London; weather data for London; work on the London Rivers Action Plan;  developing community-led responses to heatwaves in London; buildings in London using cool-roof technology; studies with social housing groups on insulation and overheating; work with CIBSE on overheating in new developments; green roofs in London; helping offset the Urban Heat Island (UHI) effect in London; in light of the Mayor’s recent article – whether he will be abandoning Action 5.1 of his Climate Change Adaptation Strategy; an update on the London Drought Plan; the number of schools in London with rainwater harvesting systems; work on an intensive urban greening retrofitting pilot project to manage surface water flood risk; the work of the Drain London Forum; working with communities at flood risk; approved suppliers on the RE:FIT framework; the Citigen CHP scheme;  how the Mayor will stop the Green Deal being a total disaster in London; Job losses in the insulation industry.

Previous months questions to the Mayor can be found here.

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New London Health Board

May 2013: The newly constituted London Health Board met for the first time on 20 May 2013. A press release sets out that the Board is a “partnership between local government, the NHS and the Mayor of London, which has been established to provide leadership on health issues of pan-London significance, where this adds value to decisions, agreements and action at local level.” A useful evidence paper was presented at this first meeting setting out some useful information on ‘Health in London‘. None of the papers  indicate that the Board are to address issues relating to health and its relationship to cold homes or fuel poverty, however,  this is only their first meeting…

The London Climate Change Partnership recently published ‘‘Linking Environment and Health: A resource for policy and decision makers working on Joint Strategic Needs Assessment’. The LCCP sets out that “Given the importance of the Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) in shaping priorities for health and social care investment it is essential that a proper assessment of such environmental factors, which impact on population health and health inequalities, are given real attention and emphasis. Health and Well-being Boards and the Boards of health and care providers will also want to take full account of environmental issues and community capacity when addressing quality and finance challenges.”

The key study looking into these issues was undertaken by the UCL’s Institute of Health Equity. Their key report ‘The Health Impacts of Cold Homes and Fuel Poverty‘ was published in 2011 and can be downloaded here.

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Disabled Facilities Grant to fund heating

April 2013: The Department for Communities and Local Government announced last week new funding to help councils fund the adaptations disabled people need to live independently in their own home. The press release states that “Ministers have protected the Disabled Facilities Grant programme for the last 3 years, with a further £185 million expected in next year’s funding.

Included in eligible types of work for funding are:

  • adapting heating or lighting controls to make them easier to use
  • improving or providing a suitable heating system

A document setting out the allocation awarded to each local authority is provided here. Looking at London councils , it can be seen a total of £23.5m has gone to the capital – a breakdown of each borough’s funding is provided below:

Continue reading…

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Energy and Climate Questions to the Mayor

March 2013: This month the Mayor has been asked questions in relation to:

the number of applications to the London Energy Efficiency Fund; the Mayor’s correspondence with DECC on the ECO;  fuel poverty and health; Details of decentralised energy schemes being supported by the Mayor; visits to Brixton Energy Solar projects; energy efficiency targets in the Mayor’s London Rental Standard; fuel poor families in London – and RE:NEW delivery in the private rented sector; the Mayor’s work to plug the energy gapprogress under the RE:FIT programme in London boroughs; the level of Green Deal activity in London; Is the GLA a Green Deal provider; plans in place to spend the £5,627,342 DECC Green Deal and Fuel Poverty funding to the GLA; 2013/14 funding to the RE:FIT programme; evaluation of the RE:FIT programme;
RE:CONNECT programme budget for 2013/14; Better Building Partneship programme budget for 2013/14/; events attended by the Mayor’s Environment Advisor; Bunhill CHP scheme; attendance at the High Level Electricity Working Group; and participation on environmental issues on the Talk London website.

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Excess Winter Mortality index figure highest in London

December 2012: The Office of National Statistics (ONS) last week issued its annual statistical bulletin with provisional figures of excess winter deaths (also referred to as excess winter mortality – EWM) in England and Wales for the winter period 2011/12, and final figures for the winter period 2010/11. Points to note include some important results in relation to London:

  • In common with other countries, in England and Wales more people die in the winter than in the summer.
  • EWM = winter deaths – average non-winter deaths
  • There were an estimated 24,000 excess winter deaths in England and Wales in 2011/12 – an 8 per cent reduction compared with the previous winter.
  • The regions of London, the South East and the East of England showed an increase in EWM between 2010/11 and 2011/12, with the largest percentage point increase occurring in London (2.0 percentage points higher)
  • London also had the highest EWM index in 2011/12, with 18.9 per cent more deaths in winter compared with the non-winter period, compared with an average of 15.4 per cent for England and Wales
  • Reference Table 2  shows that the increase in London occurred exclusively in people aged 85 and over. Furthermore, people aged 85 and over in London had the highest EWM index of any age group in any region.
  • The Health Protection Agency reported that London had the highest level of influenza-like illness (ILI) within England and Wales (Health Protection Agency, 2012a), which may partly explain why this region also showed the highest level of excess winter mortality.

Direct link to the ONS bulletin here.

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Shaping cities for health

May 2012: Researchers  have set out in a paper published in the most recent issue of The Lancet  that climate change will mean that London will have temperatures more like Hong Kong in the future.  Shaping cities for health: complexity and the planning of urban environments in the 21st century highlights that:

The research paper highlights that: “There are 3·2 million dwellings in London, almost all of which will need some modification to meet decarbonisation targets. This huge scale of refurbishment presents enormous and complex challenges—in part because of the nature of London’s buildings. This stock is not only diverse in its construction methods, which span several centuries, but also in ownership. The level of energy efficiency of the stock is also highly variable. Many properties have already undergone some energy efficiency refurbishments that are not, however, adequate for the 2050 commitment. Indeed, these moderately refurbished properties might provide the greatest retrofit challenge.”

The paper picks up on a potential health issue associated with improving the energy efficiency of homes as a result of increasing the air tightness of homes.

“One of the key problems for retrofit policy is to ensure that greater energy efficiency does not compromise health. If energy efficiency is in part achieved though greater ventilation control (reductions in air exchange), ventilation might become insufficient to remove pollutants from indoor sources. Conversely, uncontrolled ventilation impairs protection against outdoor pollution. The optimum ventilation rate for buildings has not been adequately researched, but decarbonisation strategies are prescribing ever tighter ventilation controls. For example, in a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) system, warm, moist air is extracted from kitchens and bathrooms via a duct system and is passed through a heat exchanger before being released into the environment. Mitigation measures might affect health through a range of pathways, several of which are likely to be as important as the usual exposures, if not more important. Thus a wider array of pathways than has been attempted previously should be considered. Encouragingly, there is at least a growing recognition of the associated complexities, and, for example, relevant guidance for the Building Regulations for England and Wales is continually updating its treatment of building-material permeability and ventilation control.”

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Islington: £3m for warming homes, energising business

March 2012: Islington Council news release issued which sets out how the cuoncil has announced how “it will take another 1,000 households out of fuel poverty before 2014 while stimulating the economy creating local jobs and apprenticeships for plumbers, electricians and roofers.
A report to the Council’s executive on 27 March will seek to approve £3m for a universal boiler scheme and insulation works that will reduce bills and put money back in residents’ pockets.
Islington Council will use the investment to attract the maximum benefit from the government’s Green Deal programme towards helping fuel poor households.
The good news comes on the back of a successful year for the council’s energy efficiency action in which over 300 council homes have received ‘A rated’ boilers, 2,300 residents have been helped with energy advice, and the energy doctor has visited over 700 households.
In addition, 1,600 households have received help through the award-winning SHINE service (Seasonal Health Interventions Network) – Islington Council and NHS Islington’s one-stop referral service including benefits checks, Telecare applications and befriending services for the elderly.
Signing off the report Kevin O’Leary, Corporate Director of Islington Council’s Environment Department said: “Taking thousands of poorer households out of fuel poverty is the key to making Islington a fairer place.
“In addition, new jobs and apprenticeships for hundreds in the construction trades are much needed by our young people who have been badly hit by recession.”
In addition to the £3m for boiler replacement, local power schemes in Bunhill and Crouch Hill will be completed in time for winter 2013, bringing cleaner, greener and cheaper energy to 750 homes and businesses in the south and north of the borough.”

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Hounslow Warm Homes Healthy People Conference

March 2012: The Hounslow Warm Homes, Healthy People conference will look to:

  • Find out about the causes and effects of cold homes and poor quality housing. Health issues related to cold homes cost the NHS in London £118m each year, and nearly £900m nationwide.
  • Learn more about services available across the Borough to help and support residents to stay warm and well at home
  • Share views and ideas on how services in Hounslow should best be coordinated to ensure the best outcomes for residents

Hounslow Council is particularly keen to consult with stakeholders at this early stage as it develops its thinking about how the Council, the health sector, voluntary organisations and community groups can best work together to help people keep warm and healthy at home.

The event will take place on Friday 23rd March, from 9.30am – 3.30pm, at Hounslow Civic Centre. Register now for your free place here.

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Environmental Health – acting to reduce the impact of climate change

September 2011: A useful report released in July by the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, highlighing how Environment Health Practitioners (EHPs) across the country are taking action to mitigate and adapt to climate change. The document entitled Our world, our wellbeing showcases 65 EHP interesting initiatives including schemes introduced by Croydon and the City of London Corporation, covering issues such as retrofitting, behaviour change and fuel poverty programmes.

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