King’s College Hospital’s new £100m critical care unit closed over fire safety fears

Katherine Johnston (30 July, 2020)

The 60-bed unit aimed to 'set a new global standard'

21370A critical care unit bed

King’s College Hospital’s £100 million critical care department has been closed after major fire safety concerns were discovered just three months after opening.

The hospital declared a major incident last Wednesday and moved all patients out the building after issues raised by its own inspectors and London Fire Brigade.

The News understands the latest fire safety problems highlighted the issue of containment; with any outbreak of fire believed likely to spread rapidly due to the type of exterior panelling used.

It is the latest setback for the beleaguered new build, which only partially opened in April, and it is not the first time it has been branded unsafe. In November 2018 the News reported that “significant remedial work” had to be completed by construction firm McLaughlin & Harvey before the building could open safely to patients due to “defective fire management”.

Billed as the largest critical care unit in the world, the centre had cost in excess of £80 million of NHS funding alone. The 60-bed unit aimed to “set a new global standard”.

The unit houses some but not all of the hospital’s critical care wards – with others in the main site remaining open – and was integral to its Coronavirus response.

At the peak of the outbreak the trust as a whole was treating 552 patients diagnosed with COVID-19, with 102 of them in intensive care. The News understands fire marshals were  in place in the new unit, 24/7, during the pandemic.

A spokesperson for King’s College Hospital NHS Trust said: “The trust has closed the new critical care unit so that it can complete the outstanding remedial work inside the unit itself, as well as rectify issues identified more recently.

“Before the unit was opened in April as part of the trust’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of mitigations were put in place to ensure the safety of our staff and patients.

“The remaining patients in the unit are being moved to critical care wards at King’s College Hospital, Denmark Hill so that the remedial work can be completed as quickly as possible.”

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