Hospital launches second round of testing following Grenfell Tower blaze

Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh to retest cladding following NHS-wide fire safety review

The Grenfell Tower tragedy has highlighted potential problems with particular types of cladding on high-rise buildings, sparking a review of the NHS estate

A second round of testing is being carried out on the cladding at the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh (RIE) following concerns raised after the Grenfell Tower blaze in June.

NHS trusts and health boards across the UK launched probes following the tower block fire after cladding was found to be a key factor in the west London tragedy.

Following the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire in London 12 weeks ago, NHS Lothian, along with all NHS boards, has been undertaking a review of all its buildings’ external cladding, including risk assessments and necessary testing

And, following a number of actions by NHS Lothian, further tests have been announced for the RIE.

A statement by the health board, issued this week, says: “Following the tragic events of the Grenfell Tower fire in London 12 weeks ago, NHS Lothian, along with all NHS boards, has been undertaking a review of all its buildings’ external cladding, including risk assessments and necessary testing.

“At the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, which is a building built under the Private Finance Initiative (PFI), this testing and risk assessment has been undertaken jointly by NHS Lothian and Consort Healthcare.”

This regime has included the following:

  • A review of risk assessments of all inpatient and outpatient areas
  • Intrusive surveys carried out to confirm that appropriate fire breaks are in place to prevent fires spreading
  • A review of all fire evacuation plans and staff training programmes
  • Ensuring key staff training requirements are up to date
  • A full review with Scottish Fire & Rescue on response times to the hospital, which resulted in no alteration to the standard operating procedure. Regular reviews will take place going forward
  • Fire risk management experts appointed

In addition, a review of the risk assessment with key partners including Scottish Fire & Rescue and Scottish Government identified the need for interim testing of the external panelling.

NHS Lothian commissioned the University of Edinburgh to conduct tests on three samples of representative cladding from the exterior facade of the RIE.

These tests confirmed that the materials are combustible, although the panels were fully compliant with building standards at the time of the hospital’s construction.

Our risk assessments and the additional measures we have put in place give us confidence that the hospital remains safe for our patients and staff

The trust has now agreed a second phase of testing of the cladding in line with British Standard 8414. This is the testing regime recommended by the UK Government’s expert panel. The time frame for conducting these tests is estimated at six weeks.

In the interim the trust has agreed a series of measures. These include:

  • Controlling access to the building facade by introducing temporary fencing
  • Checking the external panels for damage and making good any with visible damage
  • Increasing vigilance and security to prevent unauthorised persons or vehicles from coming into contact with the external facade
  • Putting in place more-regular external cleaning to ensure there is no debris or rubbish which could become an ignition source
  • Sharing the results of the test with the Scottish Fire & Rescue service

Tim Davison, chief executive of NHS Lothian, said: “We take all matters surrounding fire safety very seriously and I would like to reassure patients, the public and our staff that the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh has a sophisticated fire prevention system.

“Our risk assessments and the additional measures we have put in place give us confidence that the hospital remains safe for our patients and staff. This confidence is endorsed by Scottish Fire & Rescue.”

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