In order to assess awareness and training of medical staff in major incident planning and disaster medicine, a telephone survey was conducted throughout South East Thames Region. Duty consultants and trainees in anaesthesia, general surgery and orthopaedic surgery from a total of 17 hospitals in the region were included. Accident and emergency (A&E) consultants were also interviewed in order to assess administrative aspects of major incident planning. It was found that major incident plans were updated regularly in all the hospitals that were surveyed. Training exercises had been held in 88% of hospitals and the majority had tested communications only. All consultants and 77% of trainees knew that their hospital had a major incident plan. However, only 39% of trainees had been given any major incident plan related literature and less than a third of all staff had attended a major incident plan orientation session. Over half of all staff expressed confidence in their personal training in disaster medicine, but few had received relevant tuition. Of all non-A&E personnel, 5% had attended an Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) provider course. We conclude that major incident plans are in place and are updated in all the hospitals surveyed. However, all staff lack training in clinical and administrative aspects of major incident planning and disaster medicine. Recommendations to improve this situation are made.
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