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Handling Major Incidents: An Operational Doctrine

AbstractOrganisations within the NHS have long had plans to handle major incidents using an ‘all hazards’ integrated approach. When put to the test, these have proved to be effective.

Now new threats exist. By dint of their cause (terrorist release of toxic materials), scale (impact on large numbers of people), or uncertain nature (new previously unrecognised viruses) these incidents could lead to circumstances that earlier planning simply did not contemplate.
Hitherto, the emphasis has been on developing local capability and capacity to respond at individual hospital and ambulance service level. Now the NHS must plan – as must the country as a whole – for incidents of a different nature and magnitude.
They could challenge the NHS to a degree that would overwhelm any single local facility or healthcare system. Dealing successfully with the new threats will require more than simply scaling up the major incident plans of individual agencies, and further guidance on the kind of measures that might be necessary to deal with mass casualties will be issued shortly.
This paper therefore sets out a national operational doctrine for the NHS in relation to major incidents. It describes a set of general principles to guide trusts and strategic health authorities in developing their ability to handle such incidents.
Date of last revision by publisher01/07/2004
Date of last review by us08/16/2007
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