Fire safety criticised at Isle of Wight hospital unit

Fire safety criticised at Isle of Wight hospital unit

An outpatient diagnostic and rehabilitation unit at an Isle of Wight hospital has been deemed unfit for purpose due to fire safety failings.

The Laidlaw unit at St Mary’s Hospital, Newport was found to have disconnected alarms in the roof space of the ward and "inadequately sized and positioned" fire exits, as detailed in a report produced for the Isle of Wight NHS Trust.

The report said: "A fire developing in the roof space will not alert the relevant persons using the department as the fire alarm system is disconnected due to the presence of asbestos in the area and the inability to safely maintain the system... This will mean that safe evacuation will be compromised as there will be minimal warning of the fire before it affects the areas occupied by patients and staff."

It added that patients on their beds in some side rooms would be unable to be safely moved from the building in the event of a fire as “the doors are not wide enough”.

Another issue highlighted in the report was the risk posed to fire safety by inadequate night-time staffing levels that would mean there were not enough people to safely carry out the evacuation plan.

Responding to the report, the Isle of Wight NHS Trust has told patients and staff that they are taking steps to improve fire safety, and that the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Fire and Rescue Service was happy for the ward to remain in use whilst these remediation steps were put in place. These steps include new storage facilities, the widening of access doors, permanent access to wheelchairs to assist in evacuating the building, and the training of additional fire wardens.

A spokesperson said the safety of patients is of top priority and that the ward is safe to use, with comprehensive plans in place to ensure they are able to move patients safely in the event of a fire or other emergency. They continued that the Trust have now prioritised plans to make further changes to improve the safety of the Laidlaw ward.