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​Is Your GP Practice Prepared for a Civil Emergency?

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A few weeks ago, we posted about the steps that a GP practice must take when its services are disrupted. What we didn’t cover in that article was what to do in the case of a civil emergency. Such an event is covered in law by the Civil Contingencies Act (2004), which seeks to set out categories of responders and then describes how those responders must perform during the emergency. While a GP practice is not considered to be a category one provider, acting as if it is will ensure that it has robust business continuity policies and arrangements.

Defining a civil emergency

There are several circumstances which might constitute a civil emergency. These include severe weather conditions, war, and outbreak of disease. We’ve seen the effects of severe weather more regularly of late – and we’re becoming used to services being shut down or people being unable to travel to access services. Hopefully we will never again suffer a war in the UK. However, an outbreak of infectious disease is a real and present danger.

By planning for the worst, your practice will be able to get back up and running quickly and provide the services needed by the community it serves.


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Plan for all events

Perhaps the most likely pandemic in the UK is influenza, and so your practice should have in place policies and processes that ensure business continuity through an outbreak. Consider the following when designing these:

- Identify your core services and activities

- Plan for employee absence

- Consider that the call on your services will increase as more patients become ill

- Describe how these services and activities will continue in all circumstances

Civil emergencies might range from short-term to long-term, and so your procedures should be prepared for all circumstances and types of event. Consider what the practice would need to do in a range of situations, including:

- A large number of employees are absent

- IT systems stop working, or work inefficiently

- Your practice premises are closed

- Paper records are destroyed or severely damaged

- Essential goods, medications, or services are not delivered

- Make sure that emergency contact numbers are regularly updated and checked. Also, if the practice is inaccessible, where will you access all the information needed for business continuity?


If there is any disruption to the services that your practice provides, you have an obligation to inform the CQC (see the steps to take to do so here). To help you plan for the unexpected, download the NHS England Business Continuity Toolkit.

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If you have any questions or feedback, please do not hesitate to contact me -alex.henman@esuppliesmedical.co.uk - 01865 261451

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