All 10 ambulance services across the country have been placed on black alert as the hot weather, staff absences with Covid and delays in handing over patients to A&E have created a strain on the system.
Health leaders have warned that hospitals are “ill-equipped” to handle the hot weather as they do not have the facilities to store medicines correctly in high temperatures.
Managing director of the Association of Ambulance Chief Executives Martin Flaherty said: “The NHS ambulance sector is under intense pressure, with all ambulance services operating at the highest level of four within their local resource escalation action plans, normally only ever reserved for major incidents or short-term periods of unusual demand.
“Severe delays in ambulance crews being able to hand over their patients at many hospital emergency departments are having a very significant impact on the ambulance sector’s ability to respond to patients as quickly as we would like to, because our crews and vehicles are stuck outside those hospitals.
“Added to this, we have a number of staff absences due to a rise in Covid cases as well as additional pressure caused by the current hot weather, which is making things even tougher for our staff and of course the patients they are caring for.”
One trust executive in the south west told The Independent that the heatwave could be the “tipping point” for the NHS, which has struggled to get on top of the backlog left behind by the COVID-19 lockdowns.
They added: “We’ll start to see lots more numbers coming through, so I think we’re at a tipping point where we may well have to cancel some electives.”
The extreme hot weather is particularly affecting elderly people, with the Met Office issuing an amber alert warning for the hot weather on Sunday July 17 and Monday July 18.
They have said the high temperatures could have “adverse health effects” for all members of the public, not just the most vulnerable.
READ MORE: Queen likely to travel 800-miles to appoint new PM
There is a chance that this weekend could see the highest temperature ever recorded in Britain, with 35C being predicted in the south east.
The highest temperature on record is 38.7C at Cambridge Botanic Garden in July 2019.
Road gritters usually seen in winter have also been dispatched to sprinkle sand on the road in order to soak up excess tar.