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Theme 1: Protecting wellbeing during and after a major incident

Work in this theme is focused on reducing the psychological impact of major incidents. Within this, we are pursuing two broad strands of work.

The first involves managing physical symptoms that are attributed by patients to either a hazardous exposure or emergency medical intervention.

During an emergency, these symptoms can make up the majority of symptoms reported to healthcare staff and a sizeable proportion of the side-effects attributed to vaccinations or medication. Indeed, joint work by the King’s and PHE teams suggests that for one in six chemical incidents requiring a healthcare response in England, the symptoms reported by patients have no toxicological cause.

Three projects are underway to help public health practitioners to address the needs of patients with such symptoms.

These are:

  • research to develop a readily scalable, web-based questionnaire to track the well-being of patients following a major incident and identify those whose symptoms fail to resolve and who may benefit from onward referral
  • in-depth interviews with patients and practitioners caught up in an incident for which a toxicological cause is never found, to assess whether current guidance meets their needs or requires amendment
  • a study to assess the different causes of side-effects reported by people who are asked to take medication during an emergency.

The second strand in this theme is exploring how to protect the mental health of those involved in a major incident.

We are focusing on the opportunities and difficulties experienced by individuals who work for the same organisation (e.g. commercial organisations, emergency responders or primary care). This area of work is relatively neglected but is essential if organisations are to remain effective during a crisis.

The behaviour of managers and leaders is a key determinant of staff’s mental health and resilience within military settings.

We are using literature reviews and qualitative work with previously affected groups to develop manager-led interventions to prepare emergency workers before an incident and to assist commercial organisations after an incident.

For more information about this study, and to find out how you can volunteer to take part in it, please click here


Lead researchers

Dr James Rubin

Reader in the Psychology of Emerging Health Risks

King's College London