Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 295-299)


21 OCTOBER 2003

  Q295  Chairman: Good afternoon. Welcome. We do not have terribly long so perhaps you could introduce yourselves and we will get straight on with the questions.

  Mr Kealy: I am the emergency planning lead manager for West Yorkshire strategic health authority.

  Mr Williams: I am emergency planning officer from the Welsh ambulance service representing the North Wales health emergency planning group today.

  Mr Pullin: I am director for emergency planning for the five strategic health authorities in London.

  Q296  Chairman: Do you think the definition of "emergency" in the Bill is too wide or too narrow? Can you perhaps give some examples of the type of emergency that you think would be most appropriately be covered by this Bill? Are there any incidents that might not be appropriate for the Bill to encompass?

  Mr Pullin: Within the NHS we have worked through the NHS guidance on emergency planning and there is a clear definition within that guidance which offers the opportunity to deal with not only a local major incident but also wider catastrophic incidents, and we respond accordingly, so within the remit of the Bill itself the NHS has broad agreement with the definitions as described.

  Mr Kealy: I think it is sufficiently comprehensive and general to be very useful to NHS organisations of all types, really.

  Mr Williams: I concur with both my colleagues believing that the definition actually moves on from the previous Acts and will give us a firmer footing for the future.

Q297  Chairman: Any particular emergencies?

  Mr Kealy: As my colleague says we do make a distinction between big bang catastrophic events—the classic train crash, aeroplane crash, major casualty events—and rising tide emergencies, things like the recent SARS outbreak internationally which did not become an emergency for this country but could have. A `flu pandemic might be a good example of a rising tide emergency that would not develop on one day but would develop over time, and those two extremes are the kind of scenarios we would be working around.

  Mr Pullin: I think it is worth noting that post September 11 we are working and dealing with a different planning scenario altogether which is tens and hundreds of thousands of casualties, and that is something that is testing our planning process at this stage.

Q298  Lord Condon: In addition to your first comments, is there anything you would like to add in terms of any threshold that you think should be set for the type of emergency that would (a) require statutory plans and (b) would trigger emergency powers?

  Mr Williams: I think it would come down to the assessment of the risk. I believe that what we need to do, firstly, is assess the various incidents or locations to build up a risk assessment and that would then trigger a requirement for statutory planning.

  Mr Kealy: Indeed, and building from that I think we would find it very difficult to quantify where a threshold would be arrived at but it would be a question of, where we could not cope with a particular set of circumstances through normal management arrangements and operational procedures, at that stage we would want to be able to make a decision to declare an emergency or be involved in that decision. But it is very difficult to try and quantify or be explicit about that.

Q299  Mr Llwyd: Which of the National Health organisations in England and Wales do you consider should be included in category 1, category 2 or perhaps not at all?

  Mr Pullin: From the London perspective I was responsible for gathering the London wide response. I think it is appropriate to have in category 1 strategic health authorities, PCTs and acute trusts. I think it is a recognised admission. They are part of the emergency service; they may not be a blue light in terms of the London ambulance or the ambulance service at large, but certainly the response and the planning is well within the remit and it is a key responsibility of the strategic health authority and the PCTs, and in any event they have a crucial role in terms of the operational management of an incident, not only in terms of the NHS at large but also the multi agency co-ordination, and they play a major part in that co-ordination.

  Mr Williams: From a Wales perspective where the structure is slightly different we agree that it should be both trusts, the ambulance service and local health boards as category 1 organisations, but other organisations possibly within category 2.

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