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.

Section 2 Ensuring Preparedness

This section highlights the aims and objectives underpinning NHSScotland emergency preparedness, the activities required by chief executives to ensure that their health boards comply with the relevant duties under the civil contingencies act 2004.

NHSScotland emergency preparedness: aims, objectives, principles

2.1 The overall aim of emergency preparedness is to protect the public and ensure that the NHS in Scotland is safe, resilient and ready to respond when required.

2.2 The underpinning objectives are to:

  • ensure that Health Boards can respond effectively to major incidents in a way that delivers optimum care and treatment to those affected;
  • minimise the consequential disruption to healthcare services, and bring about a speedy return to normal levels of functioning;
  • maintain appropriate capability to respond to various types of major incidents; and
  • work in partnership with other agencies and across organisational and professional boundaries to deliver effective, integrated multi-agency responses to major incidents, crises and disasters when necessary.

2.3 NHSScotland's principles for emergency preparedness and response are that NHS Bodies:

  • prioritise and deploy resources efficiently and effectively;
  • are adaptable, and can respond with speed and flexibility;
  • implement knowledge/evidence-based practice;
  • provide survivors, patients and their families with the highest possible standards of healthcare by appropriately trained and supported staff;
  • provide mutual aid to each other when necessary; and
  • receive support from Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates when necessary.

2.4 As the Accountable Officer, the Chief Executive of each Health Board is responsible for ensuring the overall readiness of their organisation to manage major incidents and emergencies, including responses to high impact events.

This guidance therefore requires Chief Executives to be able to demonstrate that:

  • their organisation is fully compliant with its statutory duties under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and all subsequent regulations;
  • there is clear and effective leadership, delegation of responsibility and lines of accountability for preparing for, and responding to major incidents. As a minimum requirement, an Executive Director of the Health Board should be the designated lead for emergency preparedness (EP) and for business continuity (BC);
  • clear governance arrangements are in place throughout the organisation to oversee emergency preparedness and business continuity. These must include a Resilience Committee, chaired at least by the Lead Executive Director, which will report to the Board on emergency preparedness, training, exercises, resourcing and any gaps in capability or capacity. Reporting should be regular and at least annually;
  • there are active and effective links between the organisation's EPBC plans and planning arrangements;
  • there are suitably experienced and qualified Lead Officers for EP and BC. These officers are responsible for supporting the Executive Lead(s), advising the Resilience Committee and facilitating delivery of the required capabilities and plans throughout the organisation;
  • the Health Board has an up-to-date Major Incident Plan that has been endorsed by the Health Board. This plan should be based on the principles of risk assessment (adopting an all-risks approach), reflect integrated emergency management and complement the organisation's arrangements for business continuity. Other agencies must be made aware of any assumptions in relation to their services; and
  • adequate and proportionate resources have been allocated, in line with assessed need, to developing and maintaining emergency preparedness and the resilience of the organisation, including staffing, equipment, training and exercising.


2.5 NHSScotland Resilience (Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates) will develop core standards based on Preparing for Emergencies. Assurance of a Health Board's compliance with this guidance and the core standards will be sought from NHS Chief Executives through an annual assurance process in future.


Email: NHSScotland Resilience Unit

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