Hospital doctors 'ill-prepared' for terrorist incident

A new survey has found that half of key hospital doctors likely to be involved in responding to a major incident in the UK are not properly prepared.

Oxford University researchers conducted a phone survey to find out if the relatively low level of preparedness more than a decade ago had changed, citing incidents such as the Manchester Arena attack and the Grenfell Tower fire as reasons for the need for an incident plan.

They contacted 296 specialist trainees (on-call registrars) in emergency medicine, trauma and orthopaedics, anaesthetics and general surgery from 74 hospital trusts that had dealt with more than 30,000 patients in emergency care in the first three months of 2017. Only a third knew what their role should be in the event of an incident like the Manchester Arena bomb.

However, the findings, published in the Emergency Medicine Journal, suggest that doctors are less prepared than their peers were in 2006. While all hospitals in England are required to have a major incident plan (MIP) to respond to an incident involving a large number of casualties, the survey reveals that half of specialist on-call registrar respondents had not read the plan at all, while about one in four had read part of it.

Less than half of respondents knew where to find a copy of the plan, just under 18 per cent did not know where to locate it, and the rest were unsure. Meanwhile, when asked what role they would have in a major incident response, 36 per cent knew what they would be required to do.

Dr Jamie Mawhinney, primary author of the report, said: “The take-home message from my study is that the majority of middle-grade doctors in England are not confident in the role that they should play in a major incident. 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.”


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