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Preparation for the next major incident: are we ready? Comparing major trauma centres and other hospitals


Objectives A major incident is any emergency requiring special arrangements by the emergency services. All hospitals are required by law to keep a major incident plan (MIP) detailing the response to such events. In 2006 and 2019, we assessed the preparedness and knowledge of key individuals in hospitals across England and found a substantial gap in responding to the MIP. In this report, we compare responses from doctors at major trauma centres (MTCs) and other hospitals (non-MTCs).

Methods We identified trusts in England that received over 30 000 patients through the ED in the fourth quarter of 2016/2017. We contacted the on-call anaesthetic, emergency, general surgery and trauma and orthopaedic registrar at each location and asked three questions assessing their confidence in using their hospital’s MIP: (1) Have you read your hospital’s MIP? (2) Do you know where you can access your hospital’s MIP guidelines? (3) Do you know what role you would play if an MIP came into effect while you are on call?

We compared data from MTCs and non-MTCs using multinomial mixed proportional odds models.

Results There was a modest difference between responses from individuals at MTCs and non-MTCs for question 2 (OR=2.43, CI=1.03 to 5.73, p=0.04) but no evidence of a difference between question 1 (OR=1.41, CI=0.55 to 3.63, p=0.47) and question 3 (OR=1.78, CI=0.86 to 3.69, p=0.12). Emergency medicine and anaesthetic registrars showed significantly higher preparedness and knowledge across all domains. No evidence of a systematic difference in specialty response by MTC or otherwise was identified.

Conclusions Confidence in using MIPs among specialty registrars in England remains low. Doctors at MTCs tended to be better prepared and more knowledgeable, but this effect was only marginally significant. We make several recommendations to improve education on major incidents.

  • emergency care systems
  • major incident
  • planning
  • guidelines
  • education
  • disaster planning and response

Data availability statement

All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information. All data collected are in the form of questionnaire responses anonymised of participant details. These are available through the lead author of the study. All data relevant to the study are included in the article or uploaded as supplementary information.

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