Page last updated at 07:37 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Patients warned of cold weather

Mervyn Latchen
The system alerts vulnerable people by an automated telephone message

Thousands of patients with severe lung disease have been alerted by the Meteorological Office to a predicted Christmas weather chill.

Automatic warnings are made to vulnerable people when the temperature drops by ringing them to ask if they have enough medication for a fortnight.

Depending on their response they will be contacted by their surgery.

The scheme, which is used by Bath and North East Somerset NHS, is already thought to have saved lives.

Former miner Mervyn Latchen, from Somerset, suffers from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which accounts most emergency admissions to hospital.

The cost to the health community for an acute hospital bed is way less than the money for this scheme
Dr Simon Douglas, GP

Because he can get dangerously out of breath if he walks outside on cold days, he is registered to be contacted under the scheme.

The automated telephone message asks him if he has more than two weeks supply of medicine and whether he is feeling better or worse then normal.

Then, depending upon his response, he will be contacted by his doctor.

He says the system also contacts him and tells him in advance what the weather for the next few days will be.

"This allows me to alter my arrangements if necessary and I can make my mind up whether to go out or stay indoors," Mr Latchen added.

The system costs £21 per year per patient, but Mr Latchen's GP, Dr Simon Douglas, says it is money well-spent.

"The cost to the health community for an acute hospital bed is way less than the money for this scheme," he said.

A Meteorological Office pilot of this scheme in the West Midlands estimated that 20 lives were saved 2008.

However, only one in five health authorities across the UK are currently taking advantage of the system.



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SEE ALSO
Lung disease scheme saving cash
08 Dec 09 |  Wiltshire
'I was given a cold to help others'
03 Jul 09 |  Health

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