Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary memorandum from the Department of Health (7 May 2002)

A copy of the letter sent to Civil Contingencies Secretariat by Dr Bruce Court, DOH Head of Emergency Planning Co-ordination Unit

  I am writing to you in response to the above discussion document on behalf of Dr Pat Troop who has responsibility for emergency planning as Deputy Chief Medical Officer.

  The document adopts a fairly "broad-brush" approach and particularly addresses the matter of organisational relationships. This is very important as the effectiveness of the emergency response is determined by the clarity and strength of relationships at all levels from local, through to regional and national.

  The duty to share in partnership is an excellent notion but one that only has credence as organisations actualise this. This means the venturing of trust and on occasions, finance to achieve mutually agreed emergency planning goals. Mechanisms need to be sought that are conducive to the growth of partnership and this is most likely to occur in locations where there is a strong history of collaboration between local authorities, health and the voluntary sector. The events of the 11 September are likely to have reinforced the public's expectation for "a proactive, speedy and caring response in emergencies, irrespective of legal obligations and potential costs".

  There is certainly a need to reduce unacceptable variation in the emergency planning function and this directly related to being prepared to have a clear framework for the development of multi-agency plans and greater consistency of work.

  Leadership requirements alter according to the specific nature of the incident that is being dealt with eg an outbreak of communicable disease due to a deliberate or accidental situation requires experienced public health professional leadership.

  The DH document "Shifting the Balance of Power within the NHS—Securing Delivery" sets out organisational changes that are designed to support a bigger and longer term change in culture and ways of working. This is referred to in the Government's Response to the House of Commons Select Committee on Health's Second Report on Public Health. The formation of strong regional public health groups, co-located in the nine Government Offices of the Regions will have important functions in ensuring protection of health across each region including emergency and disaster planning and management. The Emergency Planning Co-ordination Unit has related to Health Emergency Planning Advisors in the regions and will continue to build appropriate national and international networks having been recently absorbed into the Public Health Group (PH5) of the Department of Health.

  The terrorist attacks in the USA cause us to think beyond our established organisational boundaries and to seek solutions that minimise duplication and maximise efficient and effective emergency preparedness, mitigation, response and recovery.

October 2001

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