1. ITV Report

Cumberland Infirmary to be forced to improve fire safety

The Cumberland Infirmary Photo: ITV Border

Improvements to fire safety will have to be made at the Cumberland Infirmary, after an Enforcement Notice was issued by the fire service.

Concerns were raised by the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, about the PFI building.

Namely, that fire proofing materials were not up to the 60-minute protection standard that allows safe evacuation, and prevents fire from spreading to the rest of the building.

Cumbria Fire and Rescue Service has now inspected the building, and issued the Enforcement Notice.

The Trust has put several safety measures in place this week:

  • 24-hour fire watch in all areas of the hospital
  • Patrols throughout the hospital throughout the day, until all alarms are tested

The Trust blames its PFI Partner, which it says is ultimately responsible for improvement works.

It says it asked the PFI Partner to apply for planning permission to build three temporary wards for patients while remedial works are carried out.

But it says the PFI Partner did not make an application, and the Trust has now had to submit one itself.

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.”

– Ann Farrar, chief executive of North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust

Jim Mackey, chief executive at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, North Cumbria’s buddy trust and acquisition partner, has been equally critical of the PFI Partner:

“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.”

– Jim Mackey, chief executive at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust