UK 7/7 response dire, says Israeli terror medic

The head of Israel’s largest medical terror response centre has said the way British emergency services dealt with the 7/7 bombings in London was inexcusably inadequate.

Tel Aviv Medical Centre’s Professor Pinchas Halpern was at the World Congress on Disaster and Emergency Medicine in Manchester this week, at which 550 major incident planners gathered from dozens of countries.

Prof Halpern said the 52-minute response time for ambulances to reach the 2005 bus bombing in Tavistock Square was not good enough.

“The bus bombing was above ground and the delay was inexcusable, because hundreds of people knew where it happened. [Ambulances] should have been ready for that. They should have been there within minutes.”

Israel’s official ambulance response time to terrorist bombings is just 11 minutes, with the scene cleared of major casualties within 25 minutes.

Prof Halpern said a unique computer system tracks Israeli medical personnel via GPS and automatically sends the closest paramedics to a major incident.

“From lectures by British medical teams I’ve learned paramedics stayed with casualties for a long time trying to stabilise them on site, which is counter to the norm in most of the world and certainly in Israel,” he said.

Prof Halpern, who is a visiting professor at the hospital which handled the Boston Marathon bombing, said London had one of the best emergency medical systems in the world, but was let down by its policies.

The professor’s comments run counter to the verdict of High Court judge Lady Justice Hallett, who led the inquest into the bombings. She cleared the medical teams of any failures and said it was unlikely fewer people would have died had emergency services responded more quickly.

The conference also heard from Israeli health expert Olga Vinitsky, who presented a new real-time computer application that can diagnose a biological attack in just one hour, 10 times faster than conventional methods.

Last updated: 3:45pm, May 30 2013