EMERGENCY services remain well-prepared to deal with any major incidents despite pressures faced by the NHS, a healthcare conference was told.

The Sussex Trauma Network Conference, made up of healthcare professionals from across the county, met to discuss how emergency services would respond to such an event.

The conference met at The Grand Hotel in Brighton, the site of the 1984 Brighton bombing by the IRA, which killed five people and injured more than 30.

Dr Carlos Perez Avila, the lead A&E consultant at the Royal Sussex County Hospital at the time of the attack, said that the hospital now boasts a larger number of consultants, registrars, nurses and healthcare assistants than at the time of the attack, all of whom would be vital in helping in the event of a major incident.

The Argus: Dr Carlos Perez Avila addressing the conference yesterdayDr Carlos Perez Avila addressing the conference yesterday

He explained that, in the aftermath of the blast, beds had to be made available to treat incoming patients injured in the attack.

He said: “Patients were evacuated by the ambulance service to nearby hospitals, and by 4am we had 35 or 40 beds.”

However, he did point out that hospital closures in parts of Brighton and Sussex, including Bevendean Hospital and Brighton General, could limit the ability to move patients elsewhere in the event of an incident.

“The bed stock we had at the time was much greater than the bed stock we have now in Sussex,” he said.

However, despite this and long wait times at A&E departments across the country, Dr Stephanie Tilston - organiser of the conference and consultant trauma anaesthetist at University Hospitals Sussex NHS Trust, said that there are plans in place to deal with such an emergency situation and that the pandemic has demonstrated the flexibility of the health service in the event of a major incident.

She said: “I won’t lie, it would be another stress to the system, but we are able to move people around the county and around the region, and we are reinforcing our flexibility.”

Dr Tilston advised the public to download the CitizensAid app, which provides advice in an emergency situation.

She said: “It gives very clear direct instructions with how to deal with lots of emergencies - it’s simple, it’s easy to use and I would recommend everyone download it. Hopefully, you’ll never need to use it but it is useful to have.”