The Care Quality Commission has told more than 31,000 people working for care homes, independent hospitals and hospices to carry out urgent fire safety reviews following the Grenfell Tower fire.
HSJ has learned health secretary Jeremy Hunt asked the CQC to tell the providers to ensure their buildings were safe amid growing concerns over fire safety in publicly owned buildings.
At the weekend, Mr Hunt instructed all NHS trusts to check the safety of inpatient units. Fire chiefs said such a request was “impossible” and they had not been consulted before the Department of Health wrote to trusts.
The pressures on fire authorities could increase after today’s action by the CQC. The regulator has sent a letter today to all care homes, independent hospitals and hospices – a total of 31,600 recipients – to ensure they carry out fire safety checks. HSJ understands around 17,350 organisations will be affected by the letter.
The letter, from CQC chief executive Sir David Behan, said: “I am writing to ask that you review your fire safety processes in your registered premises to ensure they are up to date and are being applied consistently in practice. In particular, I ask you to pay attention to the size and fabric of your registered premises. You may have carried out such a review already but if you have not, I encourage you to do so.”
Sir David stressed such a review was part of the legal responsibilities for registered providers, adding that they were required to consider higher risk issues such as mobility impairment of residents and ensure staff were properly trained.
The letter added: “We know from our inspections that there have been occasions when we have identified fire safety issues, some of which we have had to escalate to the local fire authorities. These issues include blocked fire exits, fire doors wedged open, escapes routes used as storage areas, low awareness among staff of what to do in emergency situations and no evidence of fire drills having been undertaken recently.”
At least 79 people have been confirmed dead after the fire in Grenfell Tower in Kensington, London on 14 June. The government has announced a public inquiry into the disaster, which is likely to focus on the safety of cladding used on the exterior of the building that may have helped the flames spread.