Joint Committee on Draft Civil Contingencies Bill Minutes of Evidence

Memorandum from the North Wales Health Emergency Planning Group (NWHEPG)

  Representation on the group is from the:

    Regional Office.

    National Public Health Service (NPHS).

    Local Health Boards (LHB).

    Acute/Integrated Trusts.

    Welsh Ambulance Services NHS Trust.


  The North Wales Health Emergency Planning Group considers that the proposed measures as detailed within the Bill are a positive and welcomed move towards a greater integration and resilience to disruptive challenges. However, we also consider that the final determination and response to the Bill can only be authoritative when the guidance and regulation that will eventually underpin the Bill are published. With this in mind, we do believe that the structures currently in place including the working practices and partnerships established across the region are evidence of existing good practice and essentially in character with the proposed Bill.

    —  The NWHEPG considers that the categorisation of health agencies is one that requires careful consideration on the basis that the NHS structure within Wales does not equate easily to the categorisation of NHS bodies, where a Pan region disruptive challenge might identify the need for the Regional Office to effectively co-ordinate the NHS response. The Regional Office does not believe that it is required to be categorised as a category 1 responder.

    —  In terms of the Ambulance Service, Trusts, Local Health Boards and National Public Health Service in Wales we consider that the duties required of the Bill, are those currently being delivered and an integral part of the activities of these agencies, and therefore suggest that they should be considered as category 1 responders. However, we offer the following observation, the Bill suggests that utilities and telecommunications organisations to name but a few are regarded as category 2 responders. The NWHEPG feels that the organisations, which support the NHS such as the Pharmaceutical companies, Medical Gas organisations and health supply organisations equally have a role to play therefore we recommend that organisations who would be heavily called upon in response to a large disruptive challenge are categorised in category 2.

    —  In terms of funding the NWHEPG consider that the change from grant specific funding for the Local Authorities could potentially result in a disparity of service provision across health regions. However, it was not felt that this would result in an insurmountable issue should performance management be addressed at the multi-agency level, therefore ensuring parity of service across said regions.

    —  A larger concern was that the Bill will place greater responsibilities and onus upon health organisations and should the Government wish to enhance the UK resilience, then appropriate funding streams for all contributing organisations must be identified.

    —  The NWHEPG questions the role of the Regional Nominated Co-ordinator and considers that the current co-ordination role that falls to the Chief Constable is appropriate. However, the group also accepted that the changing timescale and essentially the nature of the incident could require a different co-ordinator. Therefore, we suggest that the Regional Nominated Co-ordinator is pre-identified, equipped with the local knowledge and essentially the expertise to undertake such a role.

    —  The group considered that the use of "Emergency Powers" would only be effective if regarded as "Primary" legislation and therefore accepts that breaches of Human Rights legislation might be necessary.

    —  In terms of the guidance and regulations the group reserves its right to withhold comment until a time when the full impact will be evident. However, we considered that interpretation of guidance could be regarded as subjective dependent upon varying organisational perspective.

    —  In terms of devolved administrations the group accepts that major constitutional and political issues would need to be addressed for a workable legislative platform to be developed, this coupled with the very diverse geographical nature of Wales resulting in the need for cross border arrangements. Therefore, it was accepted that the role of the devolved administration in Wales would unlikely exceed current constitutional powers.

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Prepared 28 November 2003