Management of Public Health Incidents: Guidance on the Roles and Responsibilities of NHS led Incident Management Teams. Scottish Guidance No 12 (2017 edition)

Publication Date: 26 June 2017

When individuals find themselves in situations that may cause them harm they may be able to take action to protect themselves. However, circumstances can arise when the health of the population may be at risk because groups of individuals are exposed, or at risk of being exposed, to infectious disease, high levels of a hazardous substance or adverse environmental conditions. These situations are public health incidents and NHS boards and HPS must take action to protect public health.

This document provides generic guidance for the NHS in preparing for, and managing public health incidents in collaboration with partners, especially the local authorities (LAs). It is not intended to be prescriptive and should allow for flexibility so that NHS boards can respond appropriately where necessary.

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 with regards to the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (the Act) and the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (Contingency Planning) (Scotland) Regulations 2005 (the Regulations). As amended in The Civil Contingencies Act 2004 (Contingency Planning)(Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013.

NHS boards are accountable to the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates (SGHSCD) for protecting and improving the health of people living within their geographic areas. NHS boards act to protect human health during incidents within the context of shared responsibility for improving health with LAs and within the multi-agency emergency planning structures. Territorial NHS  boards, the Scottish Ambulance Service (SAS) and LAs are Category 1 responders under the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 and the Civil Contingencies Act (Contingency Planning) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013. Health Protection Scotland (HPS) is part of NHS National Services Scotland (NSS) which is the common name for the Common Services Agency for the Scottish Health Service and designated a Category 2 responder. HPS role is to coordinate national health protection activity. NHS boards are encouraged to use the Integrated Emergency Management (IEM) cycle, working together with multi agency partners via Regional and Local Resilience Partnerships.

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.

Resource information

Health Protection Scotland
Publication type:
Guideline and Guidance