NHS trust refuses payments over ‘urgent’ fire safety concerns

NHS trust refuses payments over ‘urgent’ fire safety concerns

CORNWALL PARTNERSHIP Foundation Trust (CPFT) has refused to pay some bills and rent to NHS Property Services – a government owned subsidiary – over ‘fears’ concerning fire safety.

HSJ reported on the refusal by the CPFT to pay ‘some of its bills and rent’ to NHS Property Services in response to a ‘cessation of fire safety work’ on a community hospital ward, which it said was ‘not acceptable’. The community and mental health trust has withheld payments to the company ‘in a bid to force the agency to take action’ on what it called ‘urgent matters’ relating to fire safety.

Amid a series of issues, the ‘biggest’ relates to Camborne and Redruth Community Hospital, which has outstanding remedial work including fire safety improvements to three separate wards. According to the trust’s board papers, NHS Property Services stopped ‘fire rectification’ work on the Lamorna ward ‘due to other projects’, and has told CPFT that it cannot complete the work ‘until some time in 2020’.

In response, the trust deemed this ‘not acceptable due to the risk of fire safety’, and as a result has had to move patients from that ward to another, with a spokeswoman adding that CPFT has undertaken fire risk assessments of the three wards and improved its incident response policy, alongside installing more smoke detectors and increasing security staff on overnight duty.

Despite this, the spokeswoman stated, the compartmentation at the hospital does ‘not offer a confirmed one hour fire barrier’, so patients and staff on both floors of the building would need to horizontally evacuate, which CPFT considers a ‘less safe’ response. It had negotiated its own licence with the organisation allowing it to not pay fees or outgoings ‘in respect of premises which are unavailable for use due to non-compliance with fire regulations’.

The CPFT spokeswoman also noted that the trust is exploring if it can claim for costs arising from the ‘non-compliance with fire and health and safety obligations’ by NHS Property Services. A spokesman for the organisation said it was working ‘constructively’ with CPFT, and added that continuing the work to address fire safety remains a ‘high priority’.

He remarked: ‘We have secured investment to enable the completion and commissioning of a fire alarm system throughout the main building, which has been installed. Additionally, we have sought to undertake proactive work to improve fire safety in decanted ward areas.’