Hospitals unprepared for terrorist strike claim experts

EMERGENCY plans for dealing with a terrorist attack on a British hospital are "vastly inadequate", experts claimed yesterday.

NHS emergency plans contain little planning to manage the risk of a direct hit by terrorists, according to a report, Thinking the Unthinkable: The NHS and Terrorist Action, by Glasgow University Professor Chris Johnson and Charles Hancock, from Loughborough University.

They used fictional scenarios and computer simulations of evacuation procedures to assess how long it would take to get patients with various ailments out of hospital buildings.

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The research, published in the monthly specialist journal Healthcare Risk Report, found it could take nearly six times longer to evacuate a ward with immobile patients than one treating people who could walk.

Current NHS emergency procedures needed to be reviewed urgently to address the "very real risk" of terrorist attack, said Mr Hancock.

"Most of the NHS's risk management work focuses on the role of healthcare workers in the response to a major terrorist incident, but planning and training scenarios rarely consider what might happen if an NHS facility were itself the target of an attack," he said.

"Its emergency plans concentrate on low-intensity, isolated incidents which are caused accidentally."

Major assumptions are made about being able to use hospital communications systems and fire protection measures in the event of an attack, he said.

Too many staff are left out of training sessions to deal with major incidents such as terror strikes.

"Only key individuals, those who it is assumed will play critical roles in any evacuation, undergo training" he said.

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