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Fire Safety for Healthcare Premises – In-Patient Mental Health & Learning Disability Facilities continued – Part 9

February 12, 2018 1:29 pm

In LWF’s blog series for healthcare professionals to give advice and information on best practice of fire safety in hospitals and other healthcare premises. In part 8, we began to give an overview of categories of inpatient mental health services. Part 9 will continue with that breakdown with a view to relating fire safety information to those categories of care.


Recovery and rehabilitation services are provided for those adults who have severe and long-term mental health issues which cause functional impairments. Such patients are unable to live independently even with support.


Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) classify as a tier 4 inpatient service and provide specialised provision for children and young people aged 18 or under. Patients may be detained under the Mental Health Act.


Dementia assessment units are specialist care units for those occupants who suffer from a syndrome caused by conditions causing decline in multiple functional areas. This will include impairment of memory, reasoning, communication skills and ability to carry out daily activities. Symptoms can include psychosis, depression, aggression and wandering.


Defining mental health services’ (pdf) is a 2012 publication by the Mental Health Network of the NHS Confederation and provides further information on all categories of care.


Inpatient facilities for people with learning disabilities are provided for those patients with a learning disability. A learning disability differs from a learning difficulty or a mental illness and care is required to assess and provide beds for people with learning disabilities with complex mental health problems, which can manifest in challenging behaviours and cannot be managed in the outside community. Such NHS units are few.


While the needs and requirements of each of the specific treatment areas can vary, there are common areas to be considered in terms of fire safety. The treatment environment must be a safe and secure place for the patients to receive care and a part of that must be safety from fire. For this reason, the procedures and practices in place must reflect the need for fire safety, while maintaining appropriate levels of security.


Staff working in such areas are highly trained nursing and clinical professionals and must be trained to undertake and lead fire safety procedures in case of fire, including evacuation. The number of staff available will influence the speed of evacuation. The common design approach ensures that should a fire start in one area or compartment, evacuation of all personnel and patients must be undertaken from that area to an adjoining compartment in the process known as progressive horizontal evacuation.


In Part 10, the challenges of providing a fire safe environment in units and areas with particular patient needs will be explored further. In the meantime, if you have any queries about fire safety in healthcare premises or wish to discuss this blog series, please contact Peter Gyere in the first instance on 0208 668 8663.


Lawrence Webster Forrest is a fire engineering consultancy based in Surrey with over 25 years’ experience, which provides a wide range of consultancy services to professionals involved in the design, development and construction and operation of buildings. 


While care has been taken to ensure that information contained in LWF’s publications is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances after the time of publication may impact on the accuracy of this information.


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