Trust seeks extension to fire safety order after £35m hospital work delay

Four patients have now died at Newham University Hospital after being diagnosed with coronavirus. Pi

A fire safety programme is ongoing at Newham Hospital - Credit: David Mirzoeff

A £35m programme of fire safety work at Newham Hospital is not set to be complete until 2024, despite an enforcement notice expiring in March.

Barts Health NHS Trust, which runs the hospital, confirmed in a report that it has requested an extension to comply with the notice, which was issued by London Fire Brigade (LFB) in 2020 after an inspection.

The order requires the hospital to address a number of fire safety failures found by the brigade.

In the report, the trust said it dealt with some enforcement issues immediately, such as repairing a fire detection system and drawing up a new evacuation strategy.

But a spokesperson added that challenges affecting the pace of work included the Covid pandemic, increased pressure on the emergency department and the impact of Brexit on suppliers and contractors.

The report said: "The trust embarked on an extensive programme to remedy fire deficiencies on site four years ago, but implementation depended on the availability of NHS capital funding.

"In addition, progress was hampered by the layout at Newham, which
meant that works could only be carried out by closing clinical space, impacting
patient care."

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Work is yet to be completed on a number of wards, but the trust says it has assigned funding for extra ward and critical care capacity.

In November, Barts approved a business case for a £16.5m, 40-bed modular block, which it hopes to open within the next financial year.

According to the trust, this could bring the programme forward by 21 months.

The trust spokesperson said the hospital "remains a safe place to work and be treated" while work is ongoing.

"We took immediate action to comply with London Fire Brigade’s advice and are spending £35 million on improvements to ensure Newham Hospital continues to be a safe environment for staff and patients.

"We are working closely with the London Fire Brigade to ensure that the works are carried out as quickly as possible, without disrupting patient care.”

Alan Cooper, chair of campaign group Newham Save our NHS, described the delays to the project as "shocking".

An LFB spokesperson said: “We are continuing to work alongside Barts NHS Trust in order that the work required is carried out and is in line with the fire safety order requirements.

"Discussions are ongoing at this time and the brigade is consulting with the trust over the delivery date of the enforcement notice requirements.”