Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Written Evidence

Letter from Northumberland, Tyne and Wear Strategic Health Authority

  Many thanks for your letter dated 23 July to the SHA Chief Executive, David Flory, which has been passed to me for action.

  In response to your specific question—whether the NHS should be considered a category 1 or category 2 responder—our local experience is that we find it necessary already to function at the category 1 level as described in the consultation in our dealings with local partner agencies.

  There are very few (if any) areas of potential resilience response which do not have NHS implications. These implications are often of an emergency nature and require rapid implementation supported by excellent communications. Inclusion in the core process of planning certainly facilitates this.

  In view of this, it is likely that the NHS will be a de facto category 1 organisation whatever the bill says, and it would seem sensible for the bill to reflect it.

  Some clarity about what is meant by "NHS" would also be useful in the structuring of the bill. It does seem a little odd, when the consultation includes NHS Ambulance Trusts under category 1, then to be asked whether the NHS should be included as well.

  At present, all trusts and primary care organisations have formal emergency plans. These have some differences, but are broadly coordinated through locally established fora that include public health representatives and Health Emergency Planning Advisors from Local Government Offices, Strategic Health Authority representatives and emergency planning leads from the local NHS organisations. In guidance the SHA has a performance management role here, but in practice, may be more actively involved in the processes of planning and preparedness.

  Ambulance trusts are leading players in these fora, but I would suggest that it is the broader, network structures that need to be included within category 1 planning for civil contingencies rather than just the ambulance trusts. The Health Protection Agency also will have a growing role in this regard.

  We need to ensure that the local NHS responds as a functional whole in a crisis, with clear lines of accountability that can be rapidly implemented. This is likely to be easier with greater pre-crisis involvement.

  I trust that this addresses your question. Please contact me again if I can be of further help.

Eugene Milne

Deputy Medical Director

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