Children’s multi-agency major incident exercise – ‘Exercise Theo’

Emergency exercise at sheffield children's in outpatients
13 September 2019

One of the largest ever hospital major incident exercises was run at Sheffield Children’s on Saturday (7 September).

Code-named ‘Exercise Theo’, the exercise was the largest known emergency exercise in the UK focused on children. Exercise Theo took place over one full day and tested out all major incident procedures at Sheffield Children’s Hospital, to see how Trust staff and partner organisations would respond to a major incident, providing a valuable learning opportunity for teams involved. Sheffield Children’s organised the exercise which was led by emergency department consultant Clare O’Connell, emergency preparedness coordinator Tom Chapman and Emily Hoggett, emergency medicine and emergency preparedness clinical fellow.

The Sheffield Children’s outpatients department was transformed into a replica of the emergency department so that the real emergency department could continue to function as normal.

40 scouts from 259th Stephen Hill Scout group played ‘walking wounded’ casualties, with realistic trauma make-up provided by TraumaFX. Other pretend patients on the day included children of staff members involved in the exercise and the severely injured patients were represented by manikins, which make-up artists skilfully prepared to reflect their injuries.

Teams involved in the learning exercise included staff from the emergency department, pharmacy, radiology, theatres, critical care, orthopaedics, surgery, neurosurgery, blood bank, the management team and executive team, bed managers, the inpatient team, communications team, security, porters, Embrace transport service, administrative teams and play specialists. Sheffield Children’s Hospital staff were joined by South Yorkshire Police and Yorkshire Ambulance Service as partners in the exercise. There were also observers from NHS England and NHS organisations across the country including Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, Barnsley District General Hospital, Birmingham Children’s Hospital and Leeds General Infirmary. The Sheffield Children’s team have already been asked to share their work at national events.

Exercise Theo saw children come into the replica emergency department, get registered by administrative staff while medics and nurses triaged children dictating which were the most severely injured and most in need of emergency treatments. The teams then provided emergency treatments in real time including testing the radiology and blood tests process.

BBC news presenter and patron of The Children’s Hospital Charity, Dan Walker, took time out to provide a short pretend news clip which was shown to staff in the exercise as the incident progressed.

Clare O’Connell, Consultant in Paediatric Emergency Medicine at Sheffield Children’s said: “The exercise was a great opportunity to bring together teams across the Trust and our partners agencies for a learning opportunity like no other. We are always improving our processes and practising procedures, so this was an amazing training exercise for the whole Trust to take part in, as well as an opportunity to train alongside the ambulance service and the police. Incidents involving large numbers of children can be challenging, but this test has allowed staff and partner agencies to learn and be more prepared for an incident of this scale.”

“I’m so grateful for all our partners that embraced the multi-agency aspect of the exercise and made it more valuable for hospital staff. The Scouts did a great job at pretending to be injured – top acting skills!” The 40 scouts involved earned their Charity badge for their participation and were given a special ‘Theo’ – the Children’s Hospital Charity badge as a thank you.

Tom Chapman, Emergency Preparedness, Resilience and Response Coordinator said: “We are always prepared for incidents like this, but to have the opportunity to test and refine our practice is vitally important and we are constantly making opportunity to learn and improve.”

The exercise coincides with the ‘30 days 30 ways UK’ campaign to raise the profile of Emergency Preparedness in the UK.


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