Hospital ceiling caves in 'above ICU patient'

The Princess Alexandra Hospital entrance
The NHS Trust declared a major incident as a "precautionary measure"

A hospital's ceiling caved in above a patient in an Intensive Care Unit (ICU), it was reported.

The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, in Harlow, declared a major incident after medical equipment detached from its fitting and fell to the ground on Thursday.

Essex County Fire and Rescue Services said crews worked to make the scene safe.

The Sunday Times said the ceiling collapsed onto a patient on life-support. The trust said the patient was intubated and had not been harmed, according to the publication.

Following the incident, Sharon McNally, chief nurse and deputy chief executive at The Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust, said: “We can confirm that an incident took place in our ICU on 14 March, where medical equipment detached from its fitting. No-one was harmed as a result of the incident.

“As a precautionary measure, we have declared a major incident as we have vacated our ICU while we fully assess and check the fittings for other medical equipment in the area.

"We are continuing to manage patients who require intensive care safely within our hospital and we are also grateful to our healthcare partners for their continued support. We are continuing our investigation of this incident to ensure patient safety.

“Our emergency department and wider hospital facilities remain open as usual.”

‘Sewage leak’

Last year the hospital faced building issues of a different kind.

Worsening sewage leak problems prompted calls for an urgent decision on funding to build a new hospital.

More than 40 leaks across the hospital estate were recorded in 2022 with around half classed as unsafe.

The Department for Health and Social Care said it was working with the trust on plans for a new hospital.

What is the situation at other hospitals?

The Sunday Times also reported that Meg Hillier, the chair of the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee, said on weekends a matron has to check with the property manager that the floor could take the additional weight of new patients.

In an interview with the BBC, Dame Hillier said on a recent trip to Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire the committee's "jaws were really hitting the ground".

"Rather shockingly the man responsible for reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete [Raac] issues is a tall man... [and] because of his height he couldn't even go on the roof because of that weight.

"[Hinchingbrooke Hospital] has to look and assess every time they send someone up on the roof at how many tools they can carry."

Despite praising the staff's resilience, she said that having to assess patients on whether or not they can be admitted in this way "is not how people working tirelessly in our NHS are expected to work".

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