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Infrastructure and health and social care for older people

Organisations: Durham University / Université Laval, Québec / The University of Newcastle, NSW / Heriot-Watt University

Case study focus

Human health / Health care / Hazard assessment / Vulnerability assessment

This case study summarises a scientific paper resulting from the BIOPICCC (Built Infrastructure for Older People's Care in Conditions of Climate Change) project. BIOPICCC considers the influence of climate change on health and social care systems in England.

What was it used for?

The overall aim of BIOPICCC was to develop a methodology for selecting locally sensitive and efficient adaptation strategies to ensure that the infrastructure and health and social care systems supporting older people would be sufficiently resilient to withstand the impacts of a changing climate. UKCP09 data were used in hazard, vulnerability and risk research carried out as part of the BIOPICCC project.

The research focused on care systems as a whole; including both the care needs of the older population and the infrastructures required to meet those needs. The proportion of people aged 65 and over is projected to increase significantly in the UK. Protecting health and wellbeing from the impacts of climate change is considered especially important for older people, as they are particularly vulnerable to climate-related hazards.

Which UKCP09 products were used?

The Weather Generator (Version 2)

Approach and how UKCP09 was used

The research comprised the following key steps:

1. Defining a conceptual model linking health & social care and climate change.

2. Defining future weather extremes relevant to services for older people's care.

3. Defining and modelling future changes in the hazards identified.

4. Defining 'vulnerability' in the older population.

5. Mapping future hazards and vulnerability.

The UKCP09 Weather Generator was used as a source of:

1. heatwave data: using daily maximum temperature data to allow detailed analysis of whether extreme daily temperatures (95th percentile temperature) may, in the future, exceed a 25°C temperature threshold identified in the 2010 NHS Heatwave Plan[1].

2. coldwave data: using daily maximum temperature data to allow detailed analysis of how coldwave events may change in the future. (Coldwaves are defined in the study as an event where the daily maximum temperature is 0°C or below for three or more consecutive days).

Difficulties & limitations

A number of limitations were identified in the course of the research. The research focused on a relatively limited range of indicators of local hazard and vulnerability, for which long range forecasts were available. These are not all available at the same geographical scale. Some aspects of extreme weather (notably storm events associated with extreme wind speed) might be important for infrastructure, but robust projections were not available. Heat island effects in cities are only partially reflected in the baseline data for projections and may therefore be imperfectly modelled in future weather scenarios.

Lessons learned

Mapping exercises such as those undertaken in this study reflect this degree of complexity, and are considered useful tools to help planning local resilience. The research concludes that in order to properly understand the risks to built infrastructure that supports older people's care, an assessment that looks at multiple facets of hazard and vulnerability is required. This will be challenging for local agencies with limited resources.

The next stages of the BIOPICCC project assessed the potential to apply geographical mapping as part of consultation and planning at a local level. Local intelligence is used to help identify the local aspects of hazard and vulnerability and to understand how these relate to built infrastructure that is vital for health and social care of older people.

How will the result be communicated?

Findings of the BIOPICCC project have been communicated through the publication of an academic paper, together with reports for stakeholders and conference papers.

In addition, a BIOPICCC Toolkit has been developed to provide a series of resources to assist local authorities, partner organisations, and neighbourhood and community groups. The Toolkit is designed to support users in developing plans to make health and social care services for older people more resilient to the impacts of extreme weather.

These outputs can be accessed from the BIOPICCC website (see 'Find out more' section below).

Find out more

1. NHS (2010). Heatwave plan for England: protecting health and reducing harm from extreme heat and heatwaves. London: Emergency Preparedness Division.