NHS hospitals unprepared for terror attack, survey finds

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NHS hospitals are unprepared for terror attacks, with half of doctors unaware of emergency plans, a survey has found.

Interviews with hundreds of registrars – who tend to lead the emergency response to major incidents – found only a third knew what their role should be in the event of an incident like the Manchester Arena bomb.

Since 2004 all hospitals in England have been required to keep a major incident plant, which details how staff should react in the event of an incident involving a large number of casualties.

Hospitals in the vicinity of a terror attack, or an event such as the Grenfell Tower fire, will declare a major incident as a matter of course.

However, a study published in the Emergency Medicine Journal found that just half of doctors had read their hospital’s major incident plan, and only 47 per cent knew where to locate it.

Meanwhile 36 per cent knew what to do personally if a major incident was declared.

“Of concern, we found no improvement since 2006: indeed fewer individuals were confident in the role they would play if an MIP came into effect while they were on call,” the authors wrote.

Dr Jamie Mawhinney, who led the research, said:”We were surprised that this was the case, especially given recent high-profile emergencies in the UK such as the Grenfell Tower disaster and the London Bridge and Westminster terror attacks.

“Our results in fact show that registrar doctors are less confident in responding to the major incident plan than previously.

“In order to improve confidence amongst staff I believe it will be necessary to increase training.

“Specifically we believe that all doctors should receive education on their hospital’s major incident plan at all trust inductions, as well as an abbreviated version of their own particular role.”

The team interviewed 186 on-call registrars from 74 hospital trusts working across emergency medicine, trauma and orthopaedics, anaesthetics and general surgery.

The study recommends greater use of hospital drills to prepare for major incidents.

Greater Manchester NHS staged a simulation exercise for what would happen in the event of an attack weeks before the 2017 suicide bombing, which killed 22 people.

However, the response of ambulance and fire crews was subsequently criticised by families of the bereaved.

The authors noted that the study included only specialist registrars who would currently be expected to lead the emergency response, but that major trauma centres in the UK are moving towards 24/7 consultant cover.



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