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Study highlights ‘new’ terror threats

While healthcare facilities are included in the UK's terrorism contingency plans, a new study by researchers at the Adam Smith Business School, Glasgow University, warns that hospitals are also potential targets for malevolent actions.

Most studies focus on on how healthcare services plan for and respond to terrorism attacks that result in a mass casualty scenario, but the study warns that regulating authorities need to reassess their view that terrorists are unlikely to attack hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

The study states: "Whilst it may seem obvious to some readers that hospitals are potential targets, our work with UK hospitals suggests that the threat potential is not something that is high on the managerial agenda."

It adds: "Perhaps one of the greatest challenges to health care managers and to governments, particularly in an evidence-based world, is how to plan for events that have no a priori evidence – especially when resource allocation is often contingent on a rational business case."

The authors of the study say that the ‘open’ nature of health care will remain its main vulnerability, and acknowledge the difficulty of raising awareness of risksamong staff, patients and the local population while at the same time ensuring that patients and staff feel safe.