Edinburgh's new Sick Kids hospital could face 'major delay' over fire safety measures

Fitting smoke dampers, as recommended in expert report, is a 'massive job'

Friday, 1st November 2019, 6:00 am
The new hospital was due to open in July, but that has been rescheduled for next autumn
The new hospital was due to open in July, but that has been rescheduled for next autumn

THE opening of the new Sick Kids hospital could face a major delay if recommended fire safety measures are to be installed before patients move in, a union official has claimed.

The latest expert report on problems at the £150m building revealed smoke dampers had not been fitted to the ventilation system in corridors serving sleeping accommodation, creating a risk of smoke spreading through ducting to affect escape routes.

Unison branch secretary Tom Waterson said the Scottish Government had promised smoke dampers would be fitted, but he said he understood 760 dampers were required and it took a day and a half to fit each one.

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The new building at Little France stands empty while patients continue to be treated at the existing hospital in Sciennes.

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The new hospital at Little France was due to open in July, but the move was cancelled at the last minute after the ventilation in critical care was found not to meet national standards. It is now scheduled to open next autumn.

When the report was published on Wednesday NHS Lothian boss Tim Davison said it had raised no compliance issues that would affect the timeline.

Mr Waterson said: “We met the Government on Monday and they have given us an assurance the smoke dampers will be put in. They are still looking at whether to do it before everyone’s in or could they put the dampers in while there are patients in the hospital. But they can’t ignore this. The report is quite clear that they should be in.

The expert report said a lack of dampers could allow smoke into corridors which served as fire escape routes

”It’s a massive job. That’s why they’re looking at whether they can do it while there are patients in - because if not it would cause a major delay.”

Smoke dampers have been likened to fire doors within the ventilation system to stop smoke spreading.

The report said: “Smoke dampers are not fitted to corridors serving sleeping accommodation. The risk consequence of this in the event of a fire could be that smoke would travel through ventilation into adjoining rooms and the corridor which is the escape route before the fire dampers would be actuated.”

NHS Lothian facilities director George Curley said the new building complied with fire safety standards and had been passed by building control, which included involvement of the fire service.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the report had not identified dampers as a compliance issue, but set out the potential fitting of smoke dampers as an opportunity for improvement. But he said: “Following the findings of the report, additional fire dampers will be fitted in the hallways.”

He added the works required to meet all aspects of the report were being factored into a wider plan to ensure safety at the hospital. “We continue to work to the previously announced timeline.”