• Ambulance trust will likely declare highest emergency response category under no-deal Brexit
  • South East Coast Ambulance Trust covers Kent, which fears major disruption
  • Warning follows source telling HSJ other Kent NHS organisations are “preparing for Armageddon”

South East Coast Ambulance Service Foundation Trust has warned it will need “mutual aid” from other NHS providers and is highly likely to move to the highest emergency response category, REAP level 4, if there is a no-deal Brexit in October, HSJ has learned.

The ambulance trust covers the already struggling Kent health economy, which is bracing for significant traffic disruption if there is a no-deal Brexit, with freight traffic expected to be backed up at Dover, Folkestone and Ramsgate ports.

A briefing sent to trust staff last week said: “If we face a ‘no-deal’ exit scenario, we are highly likely to move to REAP [resourcing escalatory action plan] 4; we will then need to stop all non-essential, non-operational work and be looking for the whole trust to support our operational response in whatever way they can.

“We have agreed mutual aid in place (for front-line ambulance staff and emergency operations centre staff) from the other English ambulance services.

“If triggered, this will provide us with additional front-line resource and help us mitigate against the impacts of increased traffic congestion.”

The NHS England REAP guidance is a set of pre-agreed actions to manage escalating demand by increasing capacity. It is always in operation, normally at level one, but higher levels are triggered as demand increases. Level four is the highest rating.

The notice, from trust associate director of resilience Ian Shaw, also said: “Our plans also include potentially different ways of dispatching our vehicles in times of extreme traffic congestion and reviewing all of our on-call rotas for the next three months.”

Earlier this monthHSJ revealed NHS organisations in Kent were block-booking hotel rooms for staff and planning with police to get workers and patients through “gridlocked roads” to hospitals as part of preparations for a no-deal Brexit “Armageddon”.

One senior figure in the planning of Kent’s response to a no-deal Brexit told HSJ: “Hotel rooms have been booked for people in the command teams and if it is no deal then we are planning for Armageddon, which I guess is better than not planning for Armageddon.”

East Kent University Hospitals FT “will be very badly affected”, the source said.

A SECAmb spokesman added in a statement to HSJ: “We are continuing to look at ways to help mitigate against the potential impact of a no-deal exit from the EU. We are considering the possibility of booking accommodation for staff should it be required.

“We will continue to work hard to ensure we are best placed to respond to our patients. We are monitoring the fast moving situation on a daily basis and will update our operational plans accordingly.”