The NHS in Staffordshire is to be the first in the UK to run an emergency drill involving new, high-tech mannequins that can mimic a range of health problems, including some life-threatening conditions.

More than 70 staff and volunteers from Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent Partnership NHS Trust, Combined Healthcare NHS Trust and Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust are to take part in Exercise Prometheus to test the NHS response to fire evacuation.

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The exercise, on 7 October, will be the first of its kind in the NHS to use SimMan 3G simulation mannequins which can ‘talk’, blink and breathe. SimMan exhibits vital signs such as breathing, blood pressure and pulse which will be programmed in by an operator – before the drill and on the scene – via laptop computer.

The scenario training day will see vacant wards at Queen’s Hospital, Burton transformed into a 22-bed community health unit; three bed and 13 seated mental health unit; a four bed Critical Care Unit and a six bed Emergency Admissions Unit (EAU).

The exercise will be supported by Staffordshire Fire and Rescue who will create harmless smoke and give the scenario a sense of realism. Firefighters will also use the relevant breathing apparatus for effect.

The SimMan mannequins will occupy the critical care beds for evacuation by the Fire Service and HART Team of West Midlands Ambulance Service.  Medical, nursing and clerical staff from the three NHS organisations will be playing the parts of patients or be responsible for evacuating the smoke logged wards as if on a real shift.

The aim of Exercise Prometheus will be to allow all agencies involved to meet their statutory duties by taking part in a live multi-agency exercise under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and in accordance with Emergency Planning Guidance 2005.

Staffordshire Police and the Hazardous Area Response Team (HART) from West Midlands Ambulance Service are also to provide support during the exercise which will run from 9:30 am to 12 noon.

Geraint Griffiths, Deputy Chief Executive of Staffordshire and Stoke on Trent NHS Partnership Trust, said: “The NHS continuously tests how it would respond to a major incident which could be anything from a road accident involving multiple casualties to a large fire.

“The exercise offers us the unique opportunity to help us to evaluate the effectiveness of our response to an incident and to develop emergency plans. We are delighted to be working with our NHS partners in Staffordshire and the emergency services to fully test our response to fire evacuation and to be using state of the art mannequins.”

Queen’s Hospital will remain open as usual and patients should experience little or no disruption during the exercise.

The local police and fire service will be in attendance and local residents have been advised it is an exercise only.

Jackie Jones, Burton Hospitals’ Director with responsibilities for civil contingencies said; “The exercise will be as realistic as we can make it, without causing unnecessary disruption.

“Working on a cross-agency initiatives like this allows us to test, learn and plan in a collaborative way so we can act in a more effective and cohesive way in the event of a real life situation.”

Marie Dale, Emergency Planning Manager at the Partnership Trust and Exercise Director said: “The exercise provides an opportunity to work together and look at how we respond to potential fire incidents in a hospital setting for both emergency services and our NHS colleagues.

“This exercise will provide the platform for further training and exercising opportunities to be developed across all the NHS Trusts and the learning from these exercises will go on to influence the development of future plans.”

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