The new health secretary has said extra measures are being put in place for ambulance services as an extreme heat warning comes into effect.
Steve Barclay said additional emergency support, such as more call handlers and overtime, is being rolled out Monday and Tuesday.
Meteorologists have given an 80 per cent chance of the mercury exceeding the UK’s record high temperature of 38.7C set in Cambridge in 2019 – with the current heatwave set to peak on Tuesday.
Scorching temperatures are forecast for Monday, with Peterborough expected to reach 37C and Milton Keynes, Norwich and Lincoln expected to reach 36C – while temperatures could reach 40C in London on Tuesday.
The UK’s first red extreme heat warning was issued across much of England, from London to Manchester and York, on Monday and Tuesday, while an orange warning initially covers the whole of England on Sunday and s extends to southern Scotland and Wales from Monday to Tuesday.
The UK Health Safety Agency has raised its health heat warning from level three to level four, which is described as a “national emergency”.
Mr Barclay told the BBC: ‘The clear message to the public is to take the reasonable measures in terms of water, shade and cover, which many people are aware of. This is the best way to mitigate the heat.
“We ask people to keep an eye on their neighbors and those who may be vulnerable.
“We are also putting in place additional emergency support.”
He added: “We are putting additional measures in place in terms of call handlers, support for the fleet [and] additional hours of capacity within the ambulances.
“Each ambulance trust has well-developed contingency plans for extreme weather conditions.
“We are also working with hospitals to move relays from ambulances to hospitals, but also to ensure that where people can be moved to the services themselves, we are using the full capacity of the hospital rather than people. wait longer than they need to in ambulances outside.
Ministers held a virtual emergency Cobra meeting on Saturday after meteorologists warned record temperatures could put lives at risk.
Cabinet Minister Kit Malthouse, who chaired the meeting, said transport services will face “significant disruption” on Monday and Tuesday and urged people not to travel.
He added that schools were being given guidance to enable them to stay open.
Met Office climate attribution scientist Dr Nikos Christidis said the 40C prediction is the result of climate change.
“We were hoping not to come to this situation, but for the first time we are predicting over 40C in the UK,” he said.
“In a recent study, we found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the UK has increased and will continue to do so over the course of the century, with the most extreme temperatures expected to be seen in south-east England. “
The Met Office meanwhile forecast dry weather in Wales, the Midlands, the southeast and southwest of England on Sunday as temperatures soar to 31C.
The North West and North East of England, as well as Scotland, are expected to have a cloudier day, with occasional showers or rain.
Highs of 25C are forecast for the North West of England, while the North East and most of Scotland could see highs of 23C.