Hospitals suffer chemical leaks and broken fire alarms as repair bills rise

8 Aug 2023

EMBARGO: 00:01 Wednesday 9th August

  • More than 100 chemical leaks in hospitals last year, including in children’s wards, A&Es and delivery units.

  • Other hospitals suffering from broken fire alarms despite 1,159 fires recorded last year

  • Liberal Democrats demand urgent plan to fix England’s hospitals as repair bill tops £10bn

A Freedom of Information investigation by the Liberal Democrats has found that England’s hospitals are crumbling, with chemicals leaking in patient areas and others with multiple broken fire alarms. 

The frightening new revelations follow record repair costs, as the cost of eradicating the repair backlog at NHS hospitals and equipment hit £10bn for the first time last year. Last year, the Liberal Democrats also discovered hundreds of sewage leaks in hospitals around the country. 

Chemical leaks have left hospitals being evacuated in recent years, including in Winchester last year and Watford in January. Yet the Liberal Democrats can now reveal that 115 chemical leak incidents took place during the past year at NHS hospitals. 

Manchester University Trust recorded the highest number of chemical leaks, totalling 22 last year. This included a childbirth delivery ward at St. Mary’s, and in a Children’s Theatre at Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital. 

In Newcastle, an NHS hospital had six leaks including in catering facilities, whilst in London, Kingston Hospital had eight leaks, and Lewisham Hospital had a chemical leak in their A&E ward. 

A separate Freedom of Information Request by the party asked hospital trusts about the number of fires in the past year, as well as the number of broken fire alarms. Of the 83 trusts who supplied data, there were 297 recorded fires last year in hospitals but NHS statistics show that there were 1,159 fires across the NHS in 2022. 

Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, which is revealed to have had 17 fires last year in hospitals, also had 17 broken fire alarms. 

University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust, which had 2 fires, also had a staggering 17 broken fire alarms. 

The Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHS Trust, which reported a fire last year in the building, also had 17 broken fire alarms. 

The Liberal Democrats are urging the government to publish a plan to urgently repair crumbling hospitals, and to release funds to start building the so-called “new hospitals” promised by the Conservatives in the 2019 general election. 

Liberal Democrat Health and Social Care spokesperson Daisy Cooper MP said: 

“This is shocking. Hospitals are falling apart, with chemical leaks in critical wards and a frightening number of faulty fire alarms. The repair budget for crumbling hospitals is mounting up yet Ministers are nowhere to be found. 

“We already know the government is on track to break its promise on delivering its so-called “new hospitals” by 2030, so the very least they could do is fix the ones we have. 

“Patients deserve the dignity of being treated in safe, modern and clean hospitals. Instead we have heard stories of sewage spills and chemical leaks leading to evacuations. The British public pay their fair share and deserve better than this. 

“The Conservative government needs to step up and fix our hospitals. The Conservative party simply cannot be trusted with the NHS.”



Full data of chemical leaks in NHS hospitals 

Full data of fires in NHS hospitals 

NHS battles sewage leaks as repair backlog grows - BBC News




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