Gowns and a beard among hospital fire horrors

The Scottish Patients Association said it was 'concerned' by the figures. Picture: Greg Macvean
The Scottish Patients Association said it was 'concerned' by the figures. Picture: Greg Macvean
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PATIENTS setting themselves alight were included among hundreds of shocking fire incidents recorded in Scottish hospitals in the past five years.

Documents released under Freedom of Information show bedding, mattresses and even gowns were deliberately lit during stays on wards across the country.

Electrical faults, burning food, cigarettes, and bin fires were the most common cause of the emergencies, while one man accidentally set his beard ablaze.

The figures have prompted demands for a review of NHS safety, particularly as the data also showed very few hospitals had a sprinkler system installed.

NHS Lothian witnessed the most fires with more than 110 incidents – the majority of them in bins or started on purpose – followed by NHS Highland with 99 and Tayside with 73.

The Scottish Patients Association said it was “concerned” by the figures and the lack of automated sprinklers protecting wards across the country.

Margaret Watt, the association chairwoman, said: “I’m appalled by these statistics, particularly the fact that patients somehow manage to be able to set things alight, perhaps by even having cigarettes on the wards.

“We have witnessed first-hand what damage a fire can do and, frankly, it’s clear the best and safest way to control any outbreak is with sprinklers. It’s also the only way to guarantee patient safety.

“I can’t see why hospitals can’t have sprinklers in place, and their installation should be made mandatory for all new sites.”

Documents from Scotland’s 16 health boards show hospitals recorded more than 520 fire incidents over the past five years.

Alarmingly, a large proportion of them were as a result of patients deliberately setting fire to items within the ward or their own bedclothes or gowns.

At Ailsa Hospital, in Ayr, a man accidentally set fire to his beard while lighting a cigarette at a smoking shelter in May 2014. Two years earlier at the same hospital, staff had to dampen flames with a towel after a frying pan caught fire.

Officials at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said sprinklers are not compulsory for hospitals but said new facilities would contain the fire-fighting measure.

A spokesman said: “The new south Glasgow hospitals will contain sprinklers throughout the bulk of the adult and children’s site, with only areas where either the presence of water, or combined effect of water and flames, would cause an increased hazard, or where the contents of the room means it is not desirable to have a water source present.”

NHS Forth Valley said it had decided there were “more appropriate solutions than sprinklers”.