NHSI to focus support efforts on sites singled out over unsafe cladding fears

Up to 38 hospitals have cladding in place with characteristics similar to that used on Grenfell Tower, with nine identified as being at the “greatest risk”.

The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), which has been working with fire and rescue services and the NHS over the weekend, made the revelation as the CQC sent a letter out to more than 17,000 providers of care homes, hospices and independent hospitals to review their fire safety checks.

Last week trusts were told by NHS Improvement (NHSI) to urgently check their buildings for combustible cladding following the fatal Grenfell Tower, which has claimed the lives of at least 79 people.

In a statement to the Telegraph, the NFCC said: “From a national perspective the primary focus has been on residential tower blocks with similar characteristics to Grenfell Tower. To date, 38 priority NHS sites have been identified with nine sites at greater risk.

“This is due to these presenting the greatest risk when considering both cladding risk and the fire risk assessment.”

The names of the trusts, many of which have been identified as ‘category one’ risks, which means some facilities have materials similar to those used on the Kensington high-rise, have not been revealed by the NFCC or NHSI.

But a spokesman for the regulator said that following feedback from trusts regarding the capacity of some local fire services, “we are now focusing our efforts on a number of trusts who appear to need more rapid and intensive support in the shorter term to complete these essential safety checks”.

“All other trusts will be required to complete these safety checks as soon as possible and further information on timelines will be released to trusts in due course,” he added. “We are continuing to support trusts as they work toward completing these checks in a short timeframe.”

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, told NHE: “Everyone, including trusts, NHS Improvement and the secretary of state has been trying to move fast at short notice to provide assurance on a patient safety issue which is complex, uncertain and requires expertise from outside the NHS.

“Urgent steps are being taken to establish where the most urgent priorities lie, and what needs to be done.”

Norman Lamb, the Liberal Democrat shadow health secretary, said it is “shocking to hear that hospitals as well as people’s homes may have been fitted with flammable material”.

In his letter to care home providers, Sir David Behan, CEO of the CQC, said: “As the regulator, our purpose is to ensure people receive safe, effective, compassionate and high-quality care and to encourage improvement.

“With recent events in mind, I am writing to ask that you review your fire safety processes in your registered premises to ensure they are up to date and are being applied consistently in practice.”

In what Sir David described as precautionary measure following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower, he added: “In particular, I ask you to pay attention to the size and fabric of your registered premises. You may have carried out such a review already but if you have not, I encourage you to do so.

“We will continue to assess fire safety when we register and inspect providers, focusing on passive and active fire protection and on how fire safety is managed on a day-to-day basis.”

Last year, a major hospital in Coventry was told to undergo remedial work after it emerged that it was built without the guaranteed fire safeguards.

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