The new health secretary has said extra measures are being put in place for ambulance services as an extreme heat warning comes into force.
Steve Barclay said additional contingency support, such as more call handlers and extra working hours, are being put in place on Monday and Tuesday.
Meteorologists have given an 80% chance of the mercury topping the UK’s record temperature of 38.7C, set in Cambridge in 2019 – with the current heatwave set to peak on Tuesday.
Scorching temperatures are predicted for Monday, with Peterborough expected to hit 37C and Milton Keynes, Norwich and Lincoln thought to hit 36C – while temperatures could hit 40C in London on Tuesday.
The UK’s first red extreme heat warning has been issued across a large part of England from London to Manchester and York on Monday and Tuesday, while an amber warning initially covers all of England on Sunday and extends to southern Scotland and Wales from Monday until Tuesday.
The UK Health Security Agency has increased its heat health 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 sensible steps in terms of water, shade and cover, that many people are aware of. That’s the best way of mitigating against the heat.
“We’re asking people to keep an eye out for their neighbours and those who may be vulnerable.
“We’re also putting in additional contingency support as well.”
He added: “We’re putting in extra measures in terms of call handlers, support for fleet [and] extra hours of capacity within the ambulances.
“Each ambulance trust has well-developed contingency plans for extreme weather.
“We’re also working with the hospitals to get the handovers from ambulances into hospitals, but also to ensure that where people can be moved on to the wards themselves, we’re using the full capability of the hospital rather than people waiting longer than they need to in ambulances outside.”
Ministers held a virtual emergency Cobra meeting on Saturday after meteorologists warned the record high temperatures could put lives at risk.
Cabinet office 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 schools were being issued with guidance to enable them to remain open.
Climate attribution scientist at the Met Office, Dr Nikos Christidis, has said the 40C prediction is a result of climate change.
“We hoped we wouldn’t get to this situation, but for the first time ever we are forecasting greater than 40C in the UK,” he said.
“In a recent study we found that the likelihood of extremely hot days in the UK has been increasing and will continue to do so during the course of the century, with the most extreme temperatures expected to be observed in the south east of England.”
The Met Office has meanwhile forecast dry weather in Wales, the Midlands, the South East and south-west England on Sunday as temperatures jump to 31C.
The North West and north-east England, and Scotland, are predicted to have a cloudier day, with some showers or rain at times.
Highs of 25C are predicted in the north west of England, while the North East and most of Scotland could see highs of 23C.