- British Royal Society calls for more realistic bio-attack exercises

Britain's Royal Society has warned that more realistic exercises need to be conducted to improve emergency responses to both chemical and biological attacks.

The preparedness of the National Health Service has not been tested by training operations, the Royal Society, the U.K.'s leading independent scientific academy, said, and the Government Decontamination Service has employed only desktop tests.

The society previously released a critical assessment in 2004 and acknowledged that since then, progress has been made in planning for terror attacks and major contamination events but called current training exercises inadequate.

"There is a need for more scenario-based exercises to underpin all risks generic response … The GDS is a particular concern having only conducted desktop exercises," The Guardian says the society reported. "One major issue is that current exercises stop at the door of the accident and emergency departments and therefore do not test the entire medical response. This is a particular problem given that hospitals are at full capacity and in the case of an emergency there will be the additional burden of the worried well."

The report, which applauds the creation of the Department of Health's medical intelligence unit and newly established medical intelligence staff as part of MI5's joint terrorism analysis center, calls for education for more doctors in the treatment of chemical and biological weapons patients.

The study also warns that the public should be better informed of potential dangers and noted that responsibility for coordinating the military and government is currently too broadly dispersed.

"UK capabilities are dispersed over several institutions and organisations making fully co-ordinated and cross-cutting scientific research difficult," the report says. "Concerns that OSCT is understaffed [on chemical, biological and radiological issues] and that there is a lack of continuity of expertise reflect the need to consolidate efforts across government."

The report also criticizes the Government Decontamination Service's scientific capability, noting that it primarily operates as a broker for contractors and not as a decontamination service.