King’s College Hospital reopens £100m critical care unit beset with fire safety issues to manage surge in COVID-19 patients

Katherine Johnston (21 January, 2021)

24/7 wardens are on site and some remedial works have been completed

21370A critical care unit bed

The £100 million King’s College Hospital critical care centre forced to close over fire safety flaws will reopen this week with 24/7 wardens on site.

As the News reported last year, just three months after its delayed opening and two years after fire safety concerns were first identified, the 60-bed, world-leading unit was found to be potentially unsafe by the trust’s own technical staff and London Fire Brigade.

Some of the necessary remedial works were completed over summer 2020 after closure in July, but this is just a temporary fix.

Until work has been completed to ascertain if the building’s facade can be fully replaced, a safety plan has been developed so the unit can operate, temporarily, with 24/7 fire wardens and other extra measures in place to help manage surging numbers of COVID-19 patients.

The trust says the site has been given a ‘detailed fire risk assessment’ and that it has worked closely with London Fire Brigade to ensure the unit is safe.

A decision was agreed on Monday, January 19. The first patients are expected to be admitted by the end of this week, with the unit providing much-needed space and state-of-the-art facilities for those needing intensive care.

Remedial work includes completing work on internal fire barriers, and testing on the fire alarm, water mist, ventilation and smoke extraction systems.

King’s chief executive, Professor Clive Kay, said: “Reopening the unit will give us a better working environment for critical care staff, a better care environment for very sick patients, and gives us increased flexibility in our pandemic response.”

He added: “London Fire Brigade has been very supportive and given us some constructive advice on our action plan.

“Brigade staff have visited the site and reviewed the works, and its Principal Fire Engineer has now confirmed it is appropriate for us to occupy the building.”

Dr Tom Best MBE, clinical director for critical care at King’s, said: “The reopening of this unit is good news for both our patients and our staff as it is much easier to provide the best support in this exceptionally high quality purpose built setting.

“These critical care beds will also relieve some of the pressures elsewhere in our hospital and allow all our teams to ensure their patients receive the best possible treatment and care.”

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