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Leadership in the spotlight
  1. Christine Blanshard
  1. Chief Executives Department, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, Salisbury SP2 8BJ, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Christine Blanshard, Chief Executives Department, Salisbury NHS Foundation Trust, Salisbury SP2 8BJ, UK; christine.blanshard{at}

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When I was appointed as Medical Director of Salisbury District Hospital in 2011, I felt fairly confident that I could manage the role. Salisbury was known as a relatively small quiet hospital where nothing much happened and my main worry was that I would get a bit bored after moving down from London.

But in March 2018, I was caught up in events that have made news headlines around the world and a lasting impact on myself, the hospital and its staff and the city.

On Sunday 4 March, just as the hospital was getting back to normal after 3 days of heavy snow, two people were brought into the emergency department having been found ‘collapsed’ in the city centre, just a few minutes away by ambulance. They were identified as Sergei and Yulia Skripal, and after resuscitation were transferred to intensive care for further treatment. When they did not respond to treatment as expected, some inspired clinical detective work identified that they were suffering from poisoning with an organophosphate type agent, later identified as Novichok. Nick Bailey, a police officer who had attended the scene and searched the Skripal’s home, was also admitted with symptoms of poisoning, and over the next few days we saw and assessed another 50 people connected with the incident.

This became the longest-running major incident in the National Health Service (NHS), lasting 72 days and brought an unprecedented level of scrutiny to the city and the hospital. The hospital is the main employer in the city and most of our 4500 staff lives in the city and surrounding villages. Every day they came to work with their local streets cordoned off and police and military in full CBRN (chemical, biological, radiation and nuclear) personal protective equipment (PPE) decontaminating sites and removing vehicles. Nick Bailey’s …

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  • Funding The author has not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Obtained.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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