HC Deb 04 June 2003 vol 406 cc487-8W
Mrs. Calton

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what information, preparation and guidance have been provided to tertiary centres on infectious and communicable diseases in the event of a biological attack. [99351]

Mr. Hutton

Comprehensive guidance, to ensure that the National Health Service is prepared to respond to major incidents or terrorist attacks, was first issued in November 1998, and was entitled Planning for major incidents: the NHS guidance.

The Health Protection Agency (HPA) (formerly the Public Health Laboratory Service (PHLS)) has for many years undertaken surveillance of biological agents on the Department's behalf. The approach taken has been to build on the public health need to have in place clinical and laboratory based surveillance for the most likely agents that could be used in a biological attack. This work resulted in the document published by the Department in March 2000, Deliberate release of biological and chemical agents.

In October 2001 a further package of guidance on the deliberate release of anthrax, smallpox, plague, botulism and the approach to dealing with a chemical, biological or radiological deliberate release was issued. Complementary operational guidance for clinicians, including general practitioners (GPs), was placed on the then PHLS's (now the HPA's) website. These are regularly updated.

In December 2002, the Department published Interim guidelines for smallpox response and management in the post eradication era on the departmental website. All such guidance is available on the Department's website at www.doh.gov.uk/epcu/cbr/intro.htm with links to complementary guidance on the HPA's website.

The information and guidance provided by the Department to the NHS is, of course, accessible to the whole NHS.

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