May 27, 2022

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Manchester Arena Inquiry: Change needed to urgent care in attacks

Manchester Arena Inquiry: Change needed to urgent care in attacks

Change is needed to ensure casualties of terrorist attacks get advanced medical care at the scene, the inquiry into the Manchester bombing has heard.

Only three medics went into the scene of the 2017 atrocity amid concerns about further attacks.

Currently only specialist paramedics can enter potentially dangerous areas immediately after such an attack.

A pre-hospital care consultant told the inquiry experienced doctors need greater access.

Many of the most critically injured in the arena attack, which killed 22 people and injured hundreds more, were left waiting for professional treatment and needed to be carried away from the blast scene on makeshift stretchers.

Lt Col Claire Park, a consultant who served as a British Army medic in Iraq and Afghanistan, told the inquiry experienced doctors needed to be at the immediate scene of mass casualty incidents to give the best possible interventions to help save lives.

“In an ideal world, the person doing the triage [of casualties] as far forward as possible would be a senior consultant who has the ability to work out which of those patients do need those things,” she said.

She told the inquiry the current specialist Hazardous Area Response Team paramedics were excellent and had “a huge range of skills”.

But she continued: “In terms of very sick trauma patients, they may only see one or two a year compared to clinicians, senior consultants, who see that kind of patient on a daily basis.”

The inquiry is exploring whether the UK should consider embedding experienced doctors with armed police units to allow them to treat casualties in the very early stages of a terrorist attack.

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Col Park said: “I do think we should give consideration to it. I think it’s feasible. It would require funding and training.”

The system has been used successfully in France, including during the 2015 Bataclan Theatre attack in Paris when doctors treated casualties while police fought with gunmen.

The inquiry has heard UK national counter-terrorism police do not currently support the idea of placing civilian medics within armed teams, maintaining it was not “the most effective way” to provide fast treatment.

But Col Park told the court she did not think the idea of adopting the French model had been fully explored.

She also said basic life-saving skills should be taught in schools.

Col Park said “relatively simple techniques” such as stopping catastrophic bleeding and protecting an airway should be shared with as many people as possible.

“Whether we’re talking about a multi-casualty incident or day-to-day incident on the street, they’re skills that can save peoples’ lives,” she said.

The inquiry continues.