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NHS PS embarks on action plan to address fire safety

Health Services Journal reports that NHS Property Services has ordered a full review of all of its clinical buildings following the publication of a report into the fire that destroyed Weybridge Community Hospital in July 2017.


The investigation into the cause of the fire, which is believed to have started in an air conditioning unit, reported on several contributing factors, including: failure to review the Fire Risk Assessment following a change of use; inability to access the server room to inspect the fixed electrical installation leading to the AC unit; failure to address the defective fire stopping below the fire doors in the roof void; and the building condition survey potentially failing to identify poorly fitted or missing elements of the fire resisting construction at the boundary between compartments.


The fire spread rapidly into the combustible underlay of the roof structure and timber battens and its progress was apparently unaffected by any fire compartment walls or barriers. Eventually it spread to the lower levels of the building.


The report, which was commissioned by NHS Property Services, issued a list of recommendations. Among them, the company should carry out a full review of its portfolio of properties to identify the construction type; inspect all risk rooms (regardless of actual or perceived ownership); and review the age and condition of all fixed electrical equipment, including AC units across the estate (tenants/owners of server rooms should review the adequacy of installed cooling equipment to ensure it matches the heat output of the equipment installed).


Maintenance arrangements and governance of electrical safety, principal contractors and sub-contractors should also be reviewed, as should inspection procedures for on-site fire hydrants to ensure they are being suitably maintained.


The building's tenants also need to be made aware of their obligations under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order and the requirement to inform NHS PS of any changes affecting the premises. The arrangements for obtaining assurance that actions resulting from inspections, servicing of equipment and risk assessments are addressed should be continually improved.


Finally NHS Property Services should continue to progress the intrusive fire surveys of in-patient and high-risk health centres to assess the standard of fire separation.


Chief Operating Officer of NHS PS, Martin Steele, says the company did not wait for the publication of this report to start improvement work across its estate and has already introduced an action plan.


The report also notes the importance of NHS Property Services sharing the learning from the Weybridge Hospital fire with the wider NHS and other stakeholders.


Click here to download the report.