BCM helps make the National Health Service resilient

Within Department of Health’s overarching objective of improving the health and well-being of the nation, the role of the Emergency Preparedness Division (EPD) is to improve the ability of the National Health Service (NHS) to respond effectively and efficiently to major health incidents, whether “big bang” e.g. terrorist events such as the 7th July 2005 bombings in London, or “rising tide” e.g. a flu pandemic or major flooding.  In addition, it is critical to have consistent implementation and management of business continuity across the NHS as preparations build for large scale events such as the London 2012 Olympics.

The NHS Resilience Business Continuity Management (BCM) project is a key element of the Government Capabilities programme, under the CONTEST strategy, led by the Cabinet Office’s Civil Contingencies Secretariat. The project works with two other work streams, Essential Services (Health) and Mass Casualties. The BCM project also links with on-going work between the EPD and the Security Services, especially regarding personal security matters and supply chain resilience.

In 2009, and as part of the NHS Resilience Project, the British Standards Institution (BSI) and the Department of Health worked together to “tailor” the British Standard on Business Continuity Management, BS 25999 for the NHS. The Standard provided recognised industry wide BCM guidelines and requirements, but does not address the unique nature and functions of the healthcare sector. Therefore, there was a need for the establishment of common practice that is specific to the healthcare sector.

Two publications, BS NHS 25999-1 and BS NHS 25999-2 were published and issued to 465 Emergency Planners/Business Continuity Managers within England and in order to support the roll-out of this tailored BCM standard, a 12-month licence to the NHS-tailored version of the BSI Business Continuity self-assessment tool were purchased by the Department of Health and issued to all 465 Emergency Planners/Business Continuity Managers.

It was intended that this would enable NHS organisations to continually assess where they are in the BCM process, as well as highlight what areas still needed to be worked through. The self-assessment tool enabled NHS organisations to validate their BCM processes and to demonstrate to senior management that their plans were aligned to the document, as well as prepare them for certification should they wish to be certified against the BCM standard. The BCM Standard and self-assessment tool intend to aid NHS organisations in fulfilling their statutory obligations under the Civil Contingencies Act (2004).

12 months after the project has started, BSI has met with over 300 BCM practitioners within the NHS and gained valuable feedback on individual resilience plans. The value of having a common framework is critical and allows individual Trusts to now have a common language and interoperable BCM plans that can ensure patient services are least affected by any disruptive event.

John Tomlinson, Head of Customer and Commercial Development “this was the first time British Standards has been a delivery partner for a nationwide healthcare project. The insights we gained in how the NHS works was fascinating and will help us understand this customer in future projects”

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