Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital deals with chemical spill in training exercise

Dozens of people are in desperate need of medical treatment following a deadly chemical spill - that was the mock scenario facing nurses and doctors yesterday during a training exercise at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

Staff in the accident and emergency department set-up decontamination tents and climbed into protective suits to deal with the patients who pretended to be victims of a chemical accident.

The training exercise, created by the Health Protection Agency, was part of a series of drills carried out in hospital trusts across the East in a bid to make them more prepared for a major chemical incident.

In Norwich, staff faced the challenge of dealing with patients who were contaminated when a coach crashed into chemical tanker carrying acetic anhydride.

Each patient, played by volunteers, required the hospital to deal with their different needs, with elderly people, the disabled, and non-English speakers all needing treatment.

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Communications manager at the Health Protection Agency, Ian Mallett, praised the hospital for the way they coped with the exercise.

He said: 'We run these exercises so everyone knows what their responsibility is. All the time the staff had to work quickly, whilst making sure they were not contaminating themselves or each other.

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'They have seemed to do a great job and have processed the people very quickly. But the staff at this hospital have the advantage because it is very well led.'

The volunteers taking part in the exercise were all given briefs to make the scenario realistic for hospital staff.

Owen Watkinson, 33, from Attleborough, was told to act aggressive, agitated and anxious in his role as an Eastern European father who could speak little English.

Meanwhile, Andrew Stronach, head of communications manager at the hospital, said: 'Working in these scenarios is a real eye-opener. It was extremely valuable.'

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