Published: 02/09/2004, Volume II4, No. 5921 Page 32

John Pullin is the emergency planning lead for the NHS in London: no budget, no team. . . lots of hard thinking

What is your professional background?

I started my NHS career as a student nurse at University College London Hospital in 1983. I spent 10 years on the wards, working my way up to the role of senior charge nurse at the London Hospital working in general surgery. I was then offered a secondment in operational management covering specialist medicine across St Bartholomew's, Royal London and the London Chest Hospitals. I moved on to general management at Hammersmith Hospitals trust and various other management positions, including associate director of acute services development at Kingston and Richmond Health Authority, director of Queen Mary's Hospital, and a director at Wandsworth PCT.

What attracted you to your new job?

I had been in an emergency planning environment for the previous five years, but these responsibilities were add-ons to my main job. I was attracted to the full-time emergency planning lead role because it is a real challenge - the first post of its kind in London, working on behalf of the five strategic health authorities.

What does the role involve?

I lead the continuing development of the emergency planning strategy for NHS London.

This includes providing leadership to London organisations; representing NHS London at the London Resilience Team (a multi-agency government agency with responsibilities for pan-London emergency preparedness and planning); liaising with the Department of Health, other governmental departments and with partner organisations.The role also has an ambassadorial element. I represent the NHS at a range of planning forums.

What do you enjoy most?

In spite of it being a one-topic job, There is huge variety.

Emergency planning involves so many things - from the fairly mundane, like someone drilling a hole through an electric cable and cutting off the electricity supply, or at the other end of the spectrum, a flu pandemic or a fullscale terrorist attack.The key issue for us all is business continuity. I also enjoy having no budget, no team, and no direct operational role.The role is as much ethical and philosophical as it is practical.

What is the most challenging aspect of the job?

The size and complexity of London and its unique difficulties and risks makes the job a huge challenge.Emergency planning has never been a mainstream topic, so I am working in relatively new territory.While this can be quite frustrating, given the huge complexities involved, the job is as enjoyable as it is challenging.