First hazardous area response teams for ambulance service launched in UK

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Specialist ambulance crews will be trained to respond to major incidents says health minister Rosie Winterton as she visits the pilot crew at the headquarters of London Ambulance Service.

The Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) Project will see teams of highly trained emergency medical technicians and paramedics located across England to provide a better response to major incidents. The crews will be trained and equipped to work in highly hazardous areas, providing advanced life support, triage and treatment to those affected by a major incident, including those with chemical, biological, radioactive or nuclear risks. However, typical incidents to which HART crews are dispatched to are building collapses, serious road-traffic collisions, fires, and tube trains stuck between stations underground in which there can potentially be thousands of dehydrated patients.

NHS-branded Emergency Dressing Packs, designed for immediate first aid in incidents involving large numbers of casualties will also be stocked in stations around London. The packs contain enough dressings, gloves etc to allow station staff and members of the public to carry out emergency first aid until ambulance services arrive on the scene. They will be essential in the crucial first minutes after an incident, whether it is the result of an accident or deliberate attack. These packs are a result of lessons learned from the London bombings.

Rosie Winterton says:

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"When there is a serious incident with many people hurt it is important that they receive good medical care quickly. The new HART response teams will not only deliver that much-needed medical care, but they will also free up other ambulance crews to continue dealing with regular 999 call-outs. This means that other patients will not receive delayed treatment when the emergency services are dealing with major incidents.

"We have also distributed emergency dressing packs at major stations so that if there is a major incident we have enough basic supplies for the public and crews alike to use to treat people faster. Both measures will allow our ambulance service to offer quicker medical aid at large incidents."

London Ambulance Service Head of Emergency Preparedness John Pooley said:

"These response units give the ambulance service much-needed capacity to deal with a wide range of large-scale incidents including those involving high numbers of casualties. Our staff are now equipped and trained to provide even more effective treatment to those patients who are ill or injured at the scenes of major incidents, from building collapses and tube trains stuck in tunnels to incidents involving hazardous materials."

The Department of Health commissioned a study into the ability of ambulances to respond not just to major incidents, but to deliver medical care right in the centre of an incident, for instance in a deep tube station. The London team is being launched first as part of a national roll-out of the initiative, and lessons learned through careful evaluation of the London pilot scheme will be used to further improve the HART Project.

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