Board game tests emergency services

It is unlikely to become the must have Christmas board game or match the classics like Monopoly, Ludo, or Cluedo.But a new game that aims to recreate the pressure and chaos of an emergency situation is set to be rolled out across the health service following its development at a Suffolk hospital.

It is unlikely to become the must have Christmas board game or match the classics like Monopoly, Ludo, or Cluedo.

But a new game that aims to recreate the pressure and chaos of an emergency situation is set to be rolled out across the health service following its development at a Suffolk

hospital.

'MAJAX!' is the brainchild of officials at the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust and aims to provide an inexpensive way of testing major incident control procedures and promote team building.

The Bury St Edmunds-based hospital demonstrated the new table top game with members of the press yesterday by acting out a fireworks

factory explosion scenario, with the added problems of power cuts, telephone failures, drunk consultant physicians, and kitchen closures.

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Officials hope the pioneering new game, which has taken more than 18 months to develop, will be a common training tool for NHS staff across the country in years to come after joining up with the National Performance Advisory Group (NPAG) to help market and promote it.

Paul Thacker, directorate support manager at the West Suffolk Hospital NHS Trust who helped create 'MAJAX!', said hospitals were required to test their full emergency plans every three years, but the new game enabled senior staff to tackle the management of a major incident, without disrupting services.

"It really does work. When you watch people going through the game, it is as if they are really a part of an incident.

"It also gives people who may not be in the thick of a real major incident an understanding of where they fit in and what would be happening in the hospital control centre."

"When people are looking to make their hospitals the best it can be, they need the tools for the job and this has worked for us and we have to make as much money as possible.

"It will not make a huge amount of money, but it will help people to train teams," he said.

The rotating board, which is designed for 5 to 6 people, puts participants in charge of 18 key areas of a hospital whilst dealing with a major incident such as a severe road accident or major chemical spill, with a presenter throwing in unexpected events to add to the tension and to see how they cope.

Following extensive tests with staff at the West Suffolk, the trust is already running 'MAJAX!' workshops with other authorities and is looking to sell the boards for around £1,200 with the help of NPAG. It is also designed to help officials in other emergency services, GP surgeries, dentists and walk-in centres.

Carl Kwiatkowski, health records manager, who was taking part in 'MAJAX!' for the first time yesterday, said the game was more "hectic" and "intense" than a real life emergency situation, but was good preparation.

Steve Moore, director of facilities, added that it was "definitely" a useful exercise, which brought to light planning problems before they happened in a real disaster.