THE Health Service is unprepared for a devastating terrorist attack on RAF

Fylingdales, a powerful committee of MPs warned today.

A Westminster report found planning is poor across the NHS, with a lack of equipment and people trained to handle an atrocity.

But the Commons public accounts committee singles out NHS Trusts in the Northern and Yorkshire region as being worse than elsewhere.

The select committee, led by Edward Leigh, said this was particularly worrying as the region contains the Fylingdales radar base. The site is an accepted terrorist risk and is surrounded by high-level security.

Residents and Labour backbenchers have warned this risk will increase when

the base is upgraded for "son of Star Wars".

Rogue states who want to attack the U.S. would have to first knock-out the

early warning system, they argue.

But the select committee report warns: "The Northern and Yorkshire health

authorities and acute trusts were the least prepared for general major incidents, and only 42 per cent were well prepared to handle nuclear incidents, despite the existence of targets such as the Fylingdales early warning system. Ambulance services in Northern England and Yorkshire also had gaps in its preparedness to handle nuclear and radiological incidents."

Mr Leigh said: "At a time of heightened risk of terrorist attacks, it is worrying that parts of the NHS are not fully prepared to handle the emerging threats from nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological incidents. I am pleased that there has been some progress in recent months, but there is an urgent need for the Department of Health to ensure that each region has the necessary plans, training and equipment in place."

But the Department of Health rejected the criticisms. "A huge amount of

work has been done to improve NHS preparedness," a spokesman said.

"We have provided national guidance on dealing with mass casualty incidents

and how to deal with the deliberate release of a wide range of different

chemical and biological agents.

"There are stockpiles of emergency equipment, vaccines, antibiotics, and antidotes, strategically placed around the country. They are accessible by the NHS 24 hours a day."

Updated: 10:55 Wednesday, April 16, 2003