Health bosses insist ERI is safe after ‘combustible’ cladding find

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Cladding on the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary contains “combustible material” similar to that of Grenfell Tower, tests have found.

NHS Lothian has found that the cladding used on the ERI – officially called Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh – contains flammable material and safety measures have been put in place, including heightened security.

Cladding on the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary contains combustible material similar to that of Grenfell Tower, tests have found. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Cladding on the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary contains combustible material similar to that of Grenfell Tower, tests have found. Picture: Ian Rutherford

Fire chiefs believe the building is safe for all current services.

Health bosses commissioned the University of Edinburgh to conduct tests on three samples of cladding from the exterior facade of the hospital. The tests confirmed that the materials are combustible, but that the panels were fully compliant with building standards at the time of its construction.

NHS Lothian will carry out a second phase of testing of the cladding which should take six weeks to process.

Chief executive Tim Davison said: “We take all matters surrounding fire safety very seriously and I would like to reassure patients, the public and our staff that the Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh has a sophisticated fire prevention system.

“Our risk assessment and the additional measures we have put in place give us confidence that the hospital remains safe for our patients and staff. This confidence is endorsed by Scottish Fire & Rescue.”

Since June, NHS Lothian, in partnership with Consort, have undertaken precautions at the hospital. Risk assessments have been carried out at all in-patient and out-patient areas and intrusive surveys have taken place to confirm that appropriate fire breaks are in place in order to prevent fires from spreading. All evacuation plans at the hospital and staff training programmes have been reviewed and health bosses have moved to ensure key staff training requirements are up to date.

Scottish Fire & Rescue has performed a full review on response times to the hospital which resulted in no alteration to the existing operating procedure. Fire risk management experts have also been appointed.

While the second stage of testing is carried out, access to the hospital’s facade will be controlled with the introduction of temporary fencing, external panels will be checked for damage and any visible damage will be tackled. Security will be tightened in an attempt to prevent unauthorised people and vehicles from coming into contact with the cladding. The area will also be cleaned more regularly to ensure there is no debris or rubbish which could start a fire.

The results of the test will be shared with fire bosses, who have currently not expressed any desire to alter their service response.

Following the Grenfell disaster, when at least 80 people died, the Fire Brigades Union (FBU) in Scotland, called for all high-rise flats to be subject to thorough inspections.

In July, it was revealed that the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow was built with the same insulation material as Grenfell Tower. The insulation in Glasgow was found to be highly combustible.

The Ministerial Working Group, set up to review building and fire safety following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, heard about the situation at the ERI at its fifth meeting on Friday.

Communities Secretary Angela Constance and Housing Minister Kevin Stewart received updates from Scottish Government officials and the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service.

Ministers welcomed the launch of a consultation on fire and building safety, which will better protect all homes against fire and smoke.

The consultation will look at whether the same standard should be applied across all housing – whether it is new-build, privately or socially rented or owner-occupied.