Flooding could become a “major public health issue” professionals have warned. 

The warning comes following 176 flooding incidents at NHS sites across the UK between April 2021 and March 2022 according to research from the not-for-profit organisation Round Our Way.

General acute hospitals – which provide inpatient medical care, surgery and services for acute medical conditions or injuries – bore the brunt of the damage.

The NHS sites worst affected by flooding

The worst affected regions were the east of England and London, with 63 and 52 instances of flooding respectively.

The worst affected NHS sites in the Round Our Way analysis were Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust with 30 incidents; Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, Essex, with 27 incidents; and Barnet, Enfield and Haringey NHS Trust, London, with 14 incidents.

Bournemouth Echo: Rising green house gas emissions and climate change could result in more flooding in the future.Rising green house gas emissions and climate change could result in more flooding in the future. (Image: PA)

Manager at the Yorkshire Ambulance Service NHS Trust, Alexis Percival, said: “Flooding has undoubtedly caused damage to healthcare infrastructure and it’s highly disruptive to staff and patients.

“Our area isn’t even in the top 10 listed in the report but we’ve seen flooding make roads impassable, leading to ambulances being unable to get to patients on time, NHS keyworkers struggling to get to work and patients missing appointments.

“This is before we get to the longer-term issues, such as the mental health impact on people and the threat of increased waterborne diseases.

“Just three weeks ago floodwaters came worryingly close to Fairfields, the main Yorkshire 999 call centre.

"I am really concerned if we don’t tackle climate change, today’s near-misses could become tomorrow’s major disruptions to our NHS.”

Flooding could become a "major public health issue"

Research from the University of Bristol has found that if climate change drives the average global temperature up to 3.3C above pre-industrial levels, damage from flooding in the UK could increase by more than a fifth.

According to PA Media, the Met Office has said that key infrastructures like hospitals will be significantly more exposed to flooding in the future because of climate change.

It has also recently published research predicting that extreme downpours will become four times more likely by 2080 if greenhouse gas emissions remain high.

Winters are also expected to become wetter, coinciding with periods when the NHS is under increased strain.

Dozens of NHS Trusts and ambulance services declared critical incidents last winter as they struggled to cope with the number of patients.

Bournemouth Echo: The worst affected regions due to flooding between April 2021 and March 2022 were the east of England and London.The worst affected regions due to flooding between April 2021 and March 2022 were the east of England and London. (Image: PA)

President of the Royal Society of Medicine’s Epidemiology & Public Health Section, Professor Maggie Rae, said: “Flooding has the potential to be a major public health issue.

“As well as the direct risks to life and health, this report is a timely reminder that flooding can knock out the infrastructure we rely on to access and deliver healthcare, such as hospitals, roads and communications.

“We also must not forget the major effect flooding can have on people’s mental health.

“It is acknowledged that the NHS is already overstretched dealing with the burden of disease in our country.

“We need to ensure that flooding does not result in major incidents that will inevitably impact on people’s health and the health services.”

Round Our Way’s founder and director, Roger Harding added: “Our report shows that flooding is already hitting the NHS hard.

“The Government needs to make sure this essential service is better prepared and tackle the climate change that is making extreme downpours more and more likely.

“If they fail to act, this stream of floods could become a deluge – and it will be those of us who rely on the NHS the most who will be hardest hit.”