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Open Access Research article

Accelerated discharge of patients in the event of a major incident: observational study of a teaching hospital

Kirsty Challen and Darren Walter*

Author Affiliations

Emergency Department, South Manchester University Hospitals Trust, Southmoor Road, Manchester M23 9LT, UK

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BMC Public Health 2006, 6:108  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-6-108

Published: 26 April 2006



Since October 2002 in the UK Primary Care Trusts (PCTs) have had statutory responsibility for having and maintaining a Major Incident plan and since 2005 they have been obliged to co-operate with other responders to an incident. We aimed to establish the number of beds in our Trust which could be freed up over set periods of time in the event of a major incident and the nature and quantity of support which might be required from PCTs in order to achieve this.


Repeated survey over 12 days in 3 months of hospital bed occupancy by type of condition and discharge capacity in an 855-bed UK tertiary teaching hospital also providing secondary care services. Outcome measures were bed spaces which could be generated, timescale over which this could happen and level and type of PCT support which would be required to achieve this.


Mean beds available were 78 immediately, a further 69 in 1–4 hours and a further 155 in 4–12 hours, generating a total of 302 beds (36% of hospital capacity) within 12 hours of an incident. This would require support from a PCT of 150,000 population of 10 nursing care beds, 20 therapy-supported intermediate care beds, and 25 care packages in patients' own homes.


In order to fulfill the requirements of the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, PCTs should plan to have surge capacity in the order of 30 residential placements and 25 community support packages per 150,000 population to support Acute Trusts in the event of a major incident.