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North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust - 70 years of the NHS

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Home > News > Fire safety compliance at the Cumberland Infirmary update

Fire safety compliance at the Cumberland Infirmary update

Posted on Friday 3rd July 2015
cumberland infirmary

Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service has visited the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle following North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust publicly declaring issues relating to fire safety compliance.

The Fire Service has serious concerns relating to fire proofing materials in the PFI building which do not meet the required 60 minute protection standard to allow for safe evacuation and prevent any fire from spreading in the building. They also have concerns relating to the fire alarm and detection system. 

The failings were detailed in an independent report commissioned by the Trust who had concerns about their PFI partner following a series of issues including cleaning standards during a norovirus outbreak earlier this year. The report was shared with the Trust’s PFI partner who hold ultimate responsibility for the estates and facilities management of the hospital.

Following the findings, the Trust requested immediate action from the PFI partner including requesting they should submit planning permission to Carlisle City Council for three temporary wards whilst remedial works are carried out. The temporary wards would allow work to be carried out in the quickest time possible without disrupting patient care. The PFI partner failed to submit the planning permission therefore the Trust submitted it themselves on Thursday 25 June.

The Trust and their PFI partner have carried out a detailed test of the fire alarm and detection system yesterday (Thursday 2 July) with independent engineering consultancy, Arup, witnessing the tests. Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service will be issuing an enforcement notice today (Friday 3 July) with actions for the Trust and their PFI partner to undertake.

The Trust has put further remedial actions in place this week including a 24 hour fire watch in all areas of the hospital carried out by trained members of staff. The staff are patrolling all occupied and unoccupied space 24/7 on an hourly basis. This will continue to take place until the fire alarm system is fully tested.

Ann Farrar, chief executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We will continue to work closely with Cumbria Fire & Rescue Service to resolve the fire safety compliance issues.

“We have clearly documented our serious concerns both publicly and with our PFI partner and we have urged our PFI partner to take urgent action but, to date, this has not happened. This is completely unacceptable and not a sustainable position moving forward.

“The safety and welfare of our staff, patients and visitors to the Cumberland Infirmary is my priority and I would like to offer assurance that we are taking all of the necessary actions to protect their wellbeing whilst using our services.”

Jim Mackey, chief executive at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, North Cumbria’s buddy trust and acquisition partner, said: “We have said for some time that the Cumberland Infirmary PFI building has not been fit for purpose. Issues were clearly identified in the Keogh report in 2013 and as each of these has been resolved, further issues have emerged.

“Northumbria identified the major failings with regard to fire safety compliance and with North Cumbria, have tried to engage with the PFI partner in order to rectify the situation as quickly as possible.

“The PFI partner has not given any confidence that all the appropriate actions are being taken and the Trust has had to take action. 

“The PFI contract has crippled the Trust financially yet the building in which patients are being cared for is sub-standard. We must take action to terminate the PFI contract as we have done elsewhere in the country. This would allow us to take control of the hospital’s estates management rather than being caught up in legal negotiations which are preventing us making progress.”