Preparing for Emergencies- Guidance For Health Boards in Scotland

The document provides strategic guidance for Health Board Chief Executives and NHS Senior Managers on fulfilling their obligations under the Civil Contingencies 2004 and other key legislation underpinning emergency preparedness, response and recovery.


Emergency preparedness has always been of paramount importance for the NHS in Scotland. The increasing frequency of various types of disruptive events now confronting large organisations underlines its necessity.

Health Boards need to be able to plan for and respond to a wide range of major incidents that could affect the smooth running of NHSScotland and ultimately public health or patient care. These could be anything from extreme weather conditions or a major disease outbreak, to a major transport incident. Health Boards need to be sufficiently resilient to deal with the consequences of these incidents that may put the organisation under severe pressure, while maintaining patient care.

This Preparing for Emergencies guidance encourages and supports Health Board Chief Executives and other NHS leaders to enhance emergency preparedness and the resilience of healthcare organisations.

The concept of resilience is being steadily introduced into the NHS, importantly now beyond emergency preparedness, as it encourages us to ask a different set of questions about the way we manage our resources in adverse circumstances, adapt to sudden change and enhance the robustness of healthcare services and the NHS overall. Focusing on what NHS leaders in Scotland should do to be prepared for civil contingencies or major incidents, rather than the how to do it, this guidance prompts NHS leaders to think about the implications of, and plan for, various scenarios. It also recognises the complexity of Health Boards and the differing scale of resources at their disposal. In this context, it promotes partnership-working across NHSScotland as well as with other agencies as a means of ensuring adequate response capability.

NHSScotland is a valued partner in civil contingencies and resilience planning. This is reflected by the engagement of highly experienced professionals from various disciplines and sectors who have keenly supported the development of this guidance. Their contributions have ensured that the document is comprehensive, based on new information and best practice, and takes into account the potential implications of legislation such as Equalities and Human Rights.

Being prepared for emergencies should enable NHSScotland to remain open for business during major incidents and respond to disruptive challenges with confidence. In short, emergency preparedness preserves the integrity of NHSScotland.

We urge Chief Executives and senior leaders in NHSScotland to consider this guidance and put in place appropriate plans to ensure emergency preparedness is in line with the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.

John Connaghan
Acting Director-General, Health and Social Care, Scottish Government, and Chief Executive, NHSScotland

Calum Campbell
Chief Executive, NHS Borders, and Chair, National Working Group


Email: NHSScotland Resilience Unit

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