• BCH put extra measures in place after concern
  • Critical care unit at King’s out of action
  • 170 beds out of action at two other trusts

A children’s hospital is having to put safety measures in place because it discovered building problems which could mean fire spreading quickly, it has emerged.

Birmingham Children’s Hospital was served with an enforcement notice by its local fire brigade after it found parts of its internal structure did not have adequate fire-stopping materials within cavities, HSJ has confirmed.

The problems were discovered just before Christmas, and affect the areas housing its paediatric intensive care unit, liver unit, and some theatre space. 

Work on fixing it has started but is not expected to be completed until August 2022. The Steelhouse Lane hospital was built in 1897. 

A spokesman said: “A number of additional safety measures are now in place that complement the extensive automatic detection and alarm system that provides an early warning alert in case of fire in the building.

“These include a larger standard call-out response from the fire service, increased levels of training for staff and regular reviews of evacuation plans. A comprehensive live safety exercise was also carried out in partnership with West Midlands Fire Service earlier this year.”

The areas have not been closed, so available bed numbers have not been affected. 

Meanwhile, HSJ  has confirmed that 170 beds at two other acute hospitals due to fire safety concerns — a year after we first highlighted the problems.

The Sir Robert Hadfield Wing at Northern General Hospital, part of Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Foundation Trust has 120 beds out of action, while work is carried out on ensure it has effective fire breaks. The beds have been out of action since November 2018 but work, funded by the trust’s private finance initiative partner, is due to be complete by the end of this year, it told HSJ.

At Oxford University Hospitals FT, 52 beds in a trauma unit have been out of action since concerns about cladding were raised shortly after the Grenfell Tower disaster in summer 2017. The trust – which has reprovided the beds elsewhere – said it was bidding for funds to allow it to move inpatient beds back into the unit but can’t say how much this will cost.

The trust’s West Wing – housing the children’s and eye hospitals – has a fire safety notice in place but remains open with regular safety patrols, removal of non-essential items and clear fire exits. The trust said that it was currently developing plans to carry out remedial works, and that the work would be funded by its PFI partner.

There are no central figures for the amount of fire safety-related work the NHS needs to carry out. In 2018-19, the NHS in England had 1,541 fires with 34 people suffering injuries but no deaths.

The problems in Sheffield and Oxford were highlighted in an HSJ  analysis of fire notices to NHS organisations last year. Fire authorities can issue formal notices to workplaces where they have concerns about fire risk.

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The HSJ Value Awards help raise the bar in healthcare delivery by celebrating the projects and teams driving operational, financial and clinical improvements across the health system. Showcase your influence and expertise in delivering improvements in the built environment by entering the Facilities Management or Estates Initiative of the Year category. If your initiative is changing the lives of patients and staff for the better, our judges want to hear about it! Give your team the thanks and recognition they deserve, and take part in the only awards programme focused on driving clinical, operational and financial value across the health system. Entries close on 26th November.

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