The NHS has published a document “Management of Public Health Incidents: Guidance on the Roles and Responsibilities of NHS Led Incident Management Teams”, which provides generic guidance in preparing for and managing public health incidents in collaboration with partners, especially local authorities (LA).

The guidance which was first published in 2003 and then revised in 2011 and now in 2017 has taken into account changes in legislation and also been informed by reviewing evidence from previous events such as Outbreak of Legionnaires disease in Lothian in 2012.

The guidance document aims to provide information that NHS boards and LAs can refer to when preparing for or in response to public health or environmental health events or incidents. It is not intended to be prescriptive and does not replace risk assessment and professional judgement.

The document also outlines the roles and responsibilities of Incident Management Teams (IMTs). It covers both planning and response based on a set of key principles and key functions. The guidance does not replicate that found elsewhere but sets out a hierarchy of existing guidance. It also illustrates how the response to an incident will change depending on the level and scale of that incident. It covers single and multi-board incidents and incidents where a national response is required.

The vast majority of public health incidents do not require an escalated response. However, if an incident escalates and it is deemed appropriate, a co-ordinated response through Resilience Partnerships (RP) may ensue. This response should be based on the guidance provided in ‘Preparing Scotland’, which reflects current legislation.

The Public Health (Scotland) Act 2008 provides clarity over the roles and responsibilities of NHS boards and LAs and provides extensive powers to protect public health. Broadly, NHS boards are responsible for people, and LAs are responsible for premises. NHS boards and LAs have a duty to co-operate in exercising their functions under the Act, and to plan together to protect public health in their area.

The guidance document can be accessed here.