Half of key hospital doctors say they are not properly prepared for a major incident such as the Grenfell Tower fire or the Manchester Arena terror attack, according to a new survey.
The Oxford University study suggested that the level of preparedness was actually lower than in 2006, the last time a survey into the issue was carried out.
The study, called Preparation For The Next Major Incident: Are We Ready? A 12-year update, analysed the responses of 186 specialist trainees (on-call registrars) in emergency medicine, trauma and orthopaedics, anaesthetics and general surgery from 74 hospital trusts.
It showed that 50% had not read their trust’s major incident plan (MIP), which all hospitals have been required to draw up since 2004, while only 47% knew where to find a copy.
When asked what role they would have in a major incident response, 36% knew what they would be required to do, 37% were not sure, and 27% did not know.
The main author of the study, Dr Jamie Mawhinney, said: “The take-home message from my study is that the majority of middle-grade doctors in England are not confident in the role that they should play in a major incident.
“We were surprised that this was the case, especially given recent high-profile emergencies in the UK such as the Grenfell Tower disaster and the London Bridge and Westminster terror attacks.
“Our results in fact show that registrar doctors are less confident in responding to the major incident plan than previously.
“In order to improve confidence amongst staff I believe it will be necessary to increase training.
“Specifically we believe that all doctors should receive education on their hospital’s major incident plan at all trust inductions, as well as an abbreviated version of their own particular role.”
The report did acknowledge that the response rate of the 296 doctors originally surveyed was less than 63%.
It also conceded that the study included only specialist registrars who would currently be expected to lead the emergency response, but major trauma centres in the UK are moving towards 24/7 consultant cover.
Responding to the survey, the NHS said the tiny sample size meant it was not representative of the service as a whole.
A spokeswoman said: “This survey, based on 0.2% of all hospital doctors, flies in the face of the experience of the hundreds of people who have received expert, quick and professional care in response to incidents like the attacks on Manchester arena, Westminster and London Bridge.
“But the NHS is not complacent and training exercises and reviews of previous incidents are carried out regularly to maintain the highest possible levels of preparedness.”