Serious difficiencies in fire safety found at psychiatric hopsital

A confidential government report seen by Community Care
reveals “serious deficiencies” in the fire safety of a
PFI-built psychiatric hospital in Leeds, writes Simeon

The fire safety review carried out by NHS Estates into the
Newsam Centre, built just three years ago, identifies shortcomings
in all five areas of official NHS fire safety guidance.

The report criticises the “poor” design and
construction of the £47 million building, based at Seacroft
Hospital, as well as its fire safety documentation, operation and

Patient bedrooms do not have the expected fire resistance time
of 30 minutes despite it being “generally accepted that
patient bedrooms in mental health facilities present a higher fire
risk than in other building where sleeping accommodation is
provided,” the report says.

The report concludes: “The design of the premises falls
short of the standard expected for a building put to the use of an
inpatient centre for those with mental illness or learning

Trade union Amicus has called for an inquiry into the findings
of the report. 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

“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 hundreds of thousands of pounds to bring the
centre up to the required 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 but maintained the centre was safe and had been approved by
West Yorkshire fire service. He said its fire safety standards
exceeded those for a patient hotel.


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