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NHS prepares for potential attacks

Emergency departments across the NHS have been told to be ready to respond to a possible terrorist attack, following the raising of the threat level.

The terrorist threat level was raised from severe to critical – the highest level – after Monday night’s bombing at Manchester Arena, which killed 22 people. Police investigating the attack have said a terror network could have been behind the bombing.

An alert was sent by NHS England to the 27 major trauma centres in the country urging departments to prepare and to ensure staff know what to do if an attack happens. HSJ understands it is the first time since the 2008 attack in Mumbai that NHS trusts have been sent this type of alert.

The message said: “There are a number of things that all trauma units and major trauma centres can do to prepare for a further incident and I should be grateful if you could disseminate these within your network so that frontline clinicians are aware.”

It urged trusts to ensure all staff have easy access to their major incident plan.

On Thursday morning, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens told its board meeting that trusts are being urged to check staffing levels and mutual assistance plans.

Mr Stevens also said: “We owe a huge debt of gratitude once again to the frontline staff of the NHS who responded so brilliantly under these terrible circumstances.

“The emergency coordination response kicked in on Monday night and has worked practically flawlessly.”

Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership’s chief officer, Jon Rouse, said on Tuesday that Greater Manchester’s emergency services practised dealing with a scenario “not too dissimilar” to the attack on Monday about a month ago.

HSJ also paid tribute to the staff and organisations who responded to the attack, at the HSJ Value Awards on Wednesday.

Beds occupancy at all time high

Acute bed occupancy hit a record high in the final quarter of 2016-17, while a long term reduction in the number of acute beds may be slowing.

NHS England bed occupancy data for January to March 2017 reveals 91.4 per cent of overnight hospital general and acute beds were full during the period compared to 91 per cent in the same period the previous financial year. When records began in 2000-01 overnight acute bed occupancy averaged 84.7 per cent.

Some 150 of the 179 trusts with acute beds recorded acute bed occupancy of 85 per cent or more – the target which clinicians and health experts use as the benchmark over which patient safety is put at risk.