Preparedness Of Emergency Departments managing chemical incidents

November 2017

Emergency Care

Country of origin: UK

A number of significant chemical incidents occur in the UK each year and may require Emergency Departments (EDs) to receive and manage contaminated casualties. Previously UK EDs have been found to be under-prepared for this, but since October 2005 acute hospital Trusts have had a statutory responsibility to maintain decontamination capacity. Researchers at the University Hospital of South Manchester aimed to evaluate the level of preparedness of Emergency Departments in North West England for managing chemical incidents.

A face-to-face semi-structured interview was carried out with the Nurse Manager or a nominated deputy in all 18 Emergency Departments in the region.

16/18 departments had a written chemical incident plan but only 7 had the plan available at interview. All had a designated decontamination area but only 11 felt that they were adequately equipped. 12/18 had a current training programme for chemical incident management and 3 had no staff trained in decontamination. 13/18 could contain contaminated water from casualty decontamination and 6 could provide shelter for casualties before decontamination.

The researchers identified major inconsistencies in the preparedness of North West Emergency Departments for managing chemical incidents. Nationally recognised standards on incident planning, facilities, equipment and procedures need to be agreed and implemented with adequate resources. Issues of environmental safety and patient dignity and comfort should also be addressed.

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