High bed occupancy is making it harder for hospitals to carry out fire safety work – because they have nowhere to put patients if wards need to be closed.

HSJ’s investigation into trust fire safety in the NHS since the Grenfell Tower disaster has found work to improve safety in at least three hospitals with known structural problems has been delayed because patients cannot be moved while work is going on.


Cambridge University Hospitals’ backlog maintenance issues are red rated

Cambridge University Hospitals Foundation Trust is planning “compartmentalisation” work to stop the spread of fire within the building, “subject to funding and having sufficient bed capacity to undertake the works”.

Issues around estates backlog maintenance are red rated in its most recent board assurance framework, which also suggests it is prioritising this work in the current financial year subject to funding.

A CUH spokesman said: “The safety of our patients and staff is a key priority and we continue to work closely with the local fire service to ensure that we have effective fire safety arrangements in place. We have well advanced plans to undertake further fire safety improvement works as soon as the final stages of capital allocation have been completed.”

East Sussex Healthcare Trust needs to carry out work, including compartmentalisation, to ensure it is compliant with fire safety legislation. A report to its board last month revealed its programme is behind schedule because it could not find a ward to “decant” patients into and asbestos had been discovered.

Fire issues are recorded as a major risk on the trust’s risk register and improving compartmentalisation at Eastbourne District General Hospital is expected to cost £1.5m over the next 18 months.

University Hospitals of Coventry and Warwickshire Trust, which has well documented problems with compartmentalisation, has warned that there will be “significant clinical impact on the trust” from some of the work required.

The trust is working with its private finance initiative partner on finding a solution to move patients and allow some work to progress – but a first phase of work has fallen behind schedule because “of the clinical/operational impact and requirement to identify and implement a decant facility”.

The trust said last week: “Work is currently underway to create an additional decant ward. This will allow the remaining fire proofing work to be completed with minimal disruption to patients and staff.

“Until the works are completed, we have taken steps to strengthen our already robust fire safety procedures, including putting on additional patrols and increasing rubbish collections, as well as reminding all staff who work at University Hospital of our fire safety policies. We can assure patients, staff and visitors that the hospital remains safe while the remedial works are undertaken.”

The HSJ Strategic Estates Forum is taking place on 20 March at BMA House in London. This is a high-level strategic forum that brings together estates directors, STP estates leads and trust board leaders responsible for the estates function who are developing strategic plans for their organisations and local health economies. The focus of the forum is on issues such as the delivery vehicle for the Naylor Report, the creation of Project Phoenix, advice on establishing SEPs (Strategic Estates Partnerships) and assessing progress of STP estates plans. Sir Robert Naylor, National Adviser, NHS Property and Estates; David Williams, Director General of Finance, Department of Health and Simon Corben, Head of Profession, NHS Improvement are all confirmed as keynote speakers for the event. Register your interest for this free-to-attend event on our website: https://strategicestates.hsj.co.uk/register-your-interest-attending


Exclusive: More than 50 trusts yet to carry out post-Grenfell fire checks