PATIENTS and staff at Glasgow’s super-hospital could be at risk due to “chaotic and confusing” fire evacuation procedures according to staff.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is to review emergency procedures at Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth University Hospital after a whistleblower claimed she had “seen better safety at Silverburn and Braehead” shopping centres.
The employee claims there are no designated fire wardens and it is left to individual nurses to lead patients to safety and says the policy is not fit for a hospital of that size.
She said “on every occasion” when the fire alarm goes off many staff ignore it – despite the risk if could be a real fire – and patients are seen “walking around in every direction.”
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A spokeswoman for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said nominated staff – including Facilities Managers – form part of a 24/7 response team, who are responsible for evacuations. However, she said the employee’s concerns would be raised with facilities staff and fire officers.
The employee said: “The safety procedures are not suitable for a hospital of that size.
“It’s very confusing and staff are doing different things.
“On every occasion when a fire alarm sounds, I have seen staff, management and porters sitting in the atrium eating their lunch as if nothing is going on while patients are walking around in every direction.
“At the moment when we are evacuated, we have to phone our boss to tell them we are outside.
“I find it quite shocking that four years later in this brand new building we are no further forward and lives are at risk because management has failed to appoint someone authoritative to escort patient and staff to safety.
“I have seen better procedures at Silverburn and Braehead shopping mall. People are calm and feel safe that someone is in charge.”
She said one difficulty staff face is that it is difficult to differentiate between two alert tones because they are too similar. The first is a warning to get ready to evacuate, while the second – a continuous sound – means staff should proceed to the nearest escape route.
She said: “There is no warden in place and no checklist to see where your staff are and everyone is still walking about inside or stuck outside with no-one to tell you whether it’s safe or not to enter the building.
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“Someone needs to seriously look at them before a serious fire takes place.”
A Unison spokesman said: “This concern identifies a continuing theme on this site; in that, a member of staff seems to have a very genuine concern and yet feels that they are not being taken seriously.
“That has to be a worry for the Health Board given the ongoing and numerous reviews into apparent failures on-site.”
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service declined to comment on the employee’s concerns “at this stage.”
A health board spokeswoman said: “This member of staff’s concerns will be taken seriously and raised with our Facilities Managers and Fire Officers.
“NHSGGC takes fire safety very seriously and staff are required to carry out annual, statutory and mandatory General Awareness Fire Safety Training.
“This reinforces the core principles of fire safety which includes evacuation, and the important differences between the single or double tone alarm system.
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“The fire strategy for the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital was developed in consultation with a range of fire safety experts and has the required approvals from statutory and mandatory bodies. QEUH staff – around 10,000 people – undertook training before the hospital opened and signed to say they understood it.
“As well as this, we are also in regular contact with the Scottish Fire and Rescue Services, who visit the site and ensure that our fire risk assessments are suitable and sufficient.
“The site has clear fire evacuation processes in place for all areas, with fire action notices clearly displayed in all areas advising people of the actions to take following a fire alarm activation.”