People in a care home

Toolkit to improve resilience of health & social care services for older people

Climate change is expected to increase the frequency of extreme weather events such as heatwaves and flooding, while occasional cold periods are still likely to occur. These can lead to increased demand for health, social care and supporting services, especially for vulnerable groups, while at the same time causing serious disruption to the delivery of these services.

Researchers devised a framework to identify the formal and informal health and social care systems which act as resource networks. These all rely on the built infrastructure – for example, roads, utilities and buildings – to function effectively.


Older people make up an increasing proportion of the UK population, a trend which is expected to continue. This group is more vulnerable to the impacts of extreme weather events, which are expected to increase in frequency as the climate changes.

Extreme weather events place higher demand on health and social care delivery, for example:

  • the 2003 heatwave across the south of England
  • extensive winter flooding in 2015/16
  • the prolonged cold weather during the winters of 2009/10 and 2010/11.

Communication across sectors and networks can be challenging, particularly without preparedness planning.

Unclear responsibilities and a lack of understanding about climate change adaptation and extreme weather events can be a barrier, especially when there are a range of different priorities competing for attention in local policymaking.

Main issues

  • A crowded policy arena means that local service providers and commissioners are faced with changing and competing priorities.
  • Extreme weather events are occurring now and are likely to increase in future.
  • Extreme weather events cause increased demand on services and disrupt continuity of care to older people.
  • Resilience to extreme weather events involves a wide range of stakeholders
  • Locally sensitive climate change adaptation is important to ensure continuity of care. Researchers at Durham and Herriot-Watt Universities developed the BIOPICCC toolkit to help with continuity planning during extreme weather events.

Now what?

The BIOPICCC Toolkit was developed in collaboration with local communities and service agencies in two case study areas in England. It provides a series of resources to increase the resilience of health and social care services for older people to the effects of extreme weather.

Climate change adaptation is needed, but demand can be quite variable. Health and social care providers have many demands on their time and resources, and their capacity to implement adaptation options may be limited, particularly given cuts to public and independent sector funding in recent years. The BIOPICCC toolkit provides a resource to assist with locally sensitive adaptation measures and offers wider co-benefits in coordinating both planning and service delivery across a resource network.

About the Toolkit

The Toolkit helps to develop local engagement with climate change adaptation, and includes the identification of risks and the development of community-led responses.

Local ownership and drive are important for independent and locally appropriate adoption of the Toolkit approach.

Tried and tested

The Toolkit has been demonstrated across different geographical areas, organisational scales and issues,
i.e. not just health and social care for older people, but wider community wellbeing, and has assisted in development of local plans, and commissioning and delivering services.

The winter floods of 2015/16 showed the value of the Toolkit. For example, the Toolkit enabled embedding of community involvement in local adaption planning for a particular area that had previously reported continued problem flooding. No flooding was recorded during the wettest December on record.

Why use the toolkit?

  • The Toolkit provides resources to identify appropriate stakeholders and bring them together in a geographically-based approach.
  • It can provide a hook for initiating discussions with colleagues in other teams, directorates, and organisations about climate change adaptation and extreme weather events
  • The Toolkit encourages service providers to consider the extreme weather impacts from an end-user perspective, and provides resources to include communities in planning for extreme weather events.