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More fire safety concerns

It was confirmed on Thursday that two more hospital trusts have failed fire safety tests on cladding carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals Foundation Trust and University College London Hospitals FT failed tests after submitting samples of building materials. UCLH is the third London trust to fail tests, following King’s College Hospital FT, North Middlesex University Hospital Trust.

Sheffield Children’s FT was the other trust to fail combustibility tests carried out by the Building Research Establishment.

NHS Improvement said Newcastle and UCLH have instigated 24/7 fire warden patrols and are being supported to take urgent steps to ensure fire safety.

It confirmed a further six organisations have now been designated as “priority one” for testing after supplying additional technical information. Samples will now be taken for testing, with NHS Improvement providing a further update once the results are known.

The tests were ordered by Jeremy Hunt in June following the Grenfell disaster, which is believed to have killed 80 people.

But as an HSJ investigation revealed last month, the NHS’s fire safety concerns go beyond cladding.

Fixing an ambulance anachronism

A shake-up of “dysfunctional” ambulance response times has been approved by the health secretary.

NHS England announced major changes to the performance targets, which medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said had not been updated since the 1970s.

In a letter to Jeremy Hunt, Sir Bruce described the target of reaching 75 per cent of urgent calls, classified as “red one” or “red two” within eight minutes as an “anachronism” and set out the proposed changes.

The current system sees call handlers given one minute to decide whether a patient is a red or green category, with roughly 50 per cent falling into each category.

The new rules will allow call handlers an extra three minutes to assess calls.

There will be four categories and the clock will only be stopped once a patient is being conveyed.

Category one calls, the most serious, will have a national standard of a seven minute mean response time.