• Fire service recommended improvements to compartmentalisation
  • East Sussex Healthcare Trust wants to complete work in three years
  • Wards will need to be “decanted” to allow work to go ahead

A trust is asking for £14m capital funding to address fire safety issues after a “recommendation” from its local fire and rescue service.

East Sussex Healthcare Trust will use the bulk of the money to carry out compartmentalisation work at Eastbourne District General Hospital over the next three years. It is hoping to get the money through national sustainability and transformation funding but has also put in an emergency application for an increase in public dividend capital.

In a statement, the trust said: “There is no demand or regulatory action but through our regular interactions with East Sussex Fire and Rescue Service there has been a recommendation about fire compartmentalisation which we are acting on.”

The trust had previously been expecting to spend about £750,000 a year on this work but its board papers from September 2017 reveal it was struggling to carry it out quickly because of the problems of “decanting” wards and was in discussions with the fire service about the timescale. Its annual fire report for 2016-17 referred to the infrastructure as a “major risk” and said premises did not comply with fire safety regulations.

Although the problems with compartmentalisation – which stops fires spreading quickly – have been known about since 2010, the fire service seemed happy with the pace of the work until recently.

According to the latest board papers, the trust is now seeking £13.86m to address fire risks “noted” by the fire service at Eastbourne DGH and an additional £3.95m for essential medical device and backlog maintenance. It hopes to hear back from NHS Improvement in the new year.

The trust said: “The loan for fire safety improvements is predominately to carry out fire compartmentation work at Eastbourne DGH. We have a number of mitigations in place to ensure patient safety in the short term, that East Sussex Fire and Rescue Services are aware of.

 “We have the support of the Sussex and East Surrey STP for a share of the national STP funding for this investment. However, as a back up we are also making an application to the Department of Health and Social Care for a loan which will ensure we have a permanent solution in the longer term.”

The work will involve decanting wards and the trust plans to undertake other essential building work at the same time.