HSE warning on CBRN capabilties

In a confidential internal assessment carried out for the UK Government on critical unmet needs in the health service, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) issued a warning stating the Government has virtually no capacity to deal with any CBRN incident stemming from an accident or terrorist activity.

The HSE signalled that any such incidents could lead to mass casualties, and urged the Government to provide funding to allow the health authority to bring in outside expertise to assess its preparedness and requirements, and to outline a national strategy and training requirements.

In the assessment report the HSE said it had “no standing level of preparedness, education, resources or capability to practically respond to a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear [CBRN] incident”.

“External expertise is required to guide the HSE in the development of a HSE- wide strategy and process. A CBRN incident either terrorist or a Seveso-type [a major chemical plant accident in Italy in the 1970s] incident may well become a mass casualty incident. If this initiative is not funded the HSE will continue to fall short of its responsibilities to the public and under legislation in this regard.”

The HSE sought £100,000 this year to carry out “an evaluation relating to CBRN preparedness and requirements, and to outline a HSE-wide strategy and process to include training requirements”.

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