Intended for healthcare professionals


Medical staff need to be aware of major incident planning

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: (Published 05 April 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:762
  1. Anusha G Edwards, research registrar (dr_ag_edwards{at},
  2. Olly Donaldson, preregistration house officer, department of paediatrics,
  3. Ed Walsh, consultant anaesthetist,
  4. Alexia Karantana, surgical senior house officer
  1. Southmead Hospital, Bristol BS10 5NB
  2. Department of Orthopaedics, Frenchay Hospital, Bristol BS16 1JE

    EDITOR—Last month the BMA warned that too few people in the United Kingdom know how to respond to a terrorist attack.1 Its concerns about too few senior officials being aware of plans and recommendations to improve preparedness are sensible, but we believe that not enough medical staff are aware of their role in the event of a terrorist attack.

    We recently carried out a survey in the largest acute NHS trust of the south west of England to assess medical staff's knowledge about the local major incident plan. We sent questionnaires to the 107 doctors in North Bristol NHS Trust with a potential role in the mobile medical team if they were on duty during a major incident.

    Seventy seven doctors replied (72%). Sixty nine were aware of the existence of the local major incident plan, but only 26 had read part or all of it. Only 11 of the responding doctors were aware of their potential role in the mobile medical team. Of these 11 doctors, only three thought themselves adequately trained for this position, and all three had been trained as medical incident officers.

    Last year's National Audit Office report highlighted deficiencies in NHS plans to deal with major incidents in England.2 It recommended upgrading training arrangements. Five months later some doctors are still unaware of their roles in the event of a terrorist attack. As a trust we are currently considering several measures to improve on our results. We suspect, however, that our findings are not unique and encourage other acute trusts to look closely at their staff's knowledge and training and act accordingly.


    • Competing interests None declared.


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