Background: Before 1999, there was no national model or standard doctrine for managing casualties from chemical incidents in the UK. A Department of Health (DoH) initiative to prepare the National Health Service (NHS) for chemical incidents was launched in the same year. This led to the distribution of an NHS standard chemical personal protective equipment suit (CPPE) together with a new single half day training package (Structured Approach to Chemical Casualties (SACC)) in 2001.
Objectives: To assess the impact of the DoH initiative on acute hospital and ambulance trusts. To identify deficiencies in the design and operational deployment of the new CPPE, training initiative, and decontamination procedures at hospital level.
Method: A survey to assess progress in specific areas of chemical incident preparedness and two simulated incidents with “live” chemically contaminated casualties conducted in two acute trusts. Umpires evaluated the operational performance against DoH SACC standards.
Results: There has been marked improvement in many aspects of preparedness for chemical incidents since the original National Focus survey. Some deficiencies remain and this study identified areas for further work. In the live casualty exercises, hospital staff complied well with SACC protocols. Some practical difficulties were encountered with the deployment of the CPPE and in some aspects of the operational response, leading to some delays in the delivery of care to the casualties and to the integrity of the uncontaminated (clean) zones within the hospitals.
Conclusion: Problems with the design and deployment of the CPPE, together with training difficulties have been fed back into the planning and development process.
- A&E, Accident and Emergency
- CPPE, chemical personal protection equipment
- SACC, Structured Approach to Chemical Casualties
- acute trusts
- ambulance services
- chemical incidents
- major incident planning
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Competing interests: none declared
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