Blow to private finance initiative as psychiatric unit fails fire
standards A confidential government report seen by Community Care
reveals “serious deficiencies” in the fire safety of a private
finance initiative-built psychiatric unit in Leeds.
NHS Estates, which manages health service properties, says the
Newsam Centre, based at Seacroft Hospital, falls short in all five
areas of official NHS fire safety guidance.
The report says: “The design of the premises falls short of the
standard expected for a building put to the use of an in-patient
centre for those with mental illness or learning
Union leaders have responded to the findings by claiming that the
unit was “built on the cheap”.
Patient bedrooms do not have the expected fire resistance time of
30 minutes, despite general acceptance that bedrooms in mental
health facilities have a higher fire risk than those in other
It finds smoking lounges do not have a fire-resistant construction
and the main kitchen has no “fixed extinguishing system”.
Furniture is not labelled as fire-retardant and mattresses do not
have enough protection against ignition, the report says.
The document describes the centre’s external escape routes as poor
and says one route was blocked by filing cabinets. And the fire
procedure section of the health and safety manual consisted of a
Post-it note saying “to be provided by the trust”.
Trade union Amicus has called for an inquiry into the findings.
Area organiser Terry Cunliffe said he understood the building did
not meet the required standards because it was built as a patient
“hotel” rather than an in-patient ward.
“My concern is they’ve built it on the cheap. It puts patients and
staff at risk and it’s unacceptable,” he said.
It is expected to take hundreds of thousands of pounds to bring the
centre up to standard but Leeds Mental Health Teaching NHS Trust,
which runs Newsam, said it had not been decided whether it or its
PFI partners would meet the cost.
A trust spokesperson said it had arranged for the inspection itself
and would carry out a comprehensive review of the issues raised,
but maintained the centre was safe and had been approved by West
Yorkshire fire service.