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CQC concerned as more than half of London's care homes fail fire safety inspection

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The London Fire Brigade (the brigade) has warned of a risk to the elderly as 101 out of 177 premises are told to address safety concerns.

The concerns follow a one-off series of in-depth fire safety inspections by the brigade in light of a number of recent fires in care homes and the devastation caused by the Grenfell Tower fire.

The brigade’s findings included the following serious fire safety breaches in London care homes:

  • One in three premises had inadequate or poorly maintained fire doors
  • Fire risk assessments were being carried out by people without the proper skills and experience
  • There was widespread confusion about fire evacuation strategies; and
  • Roofs were being omitted from fire risk assessments (roof voids often increase the spread and severity of a fire).

45% of the homes inspected were found to have an unsuitable or insufficiently comprehensive fire risk assessment. The brigade has stressed the need for care home fire risk assessments to be carried out by an assessor that is competent and experienced in fire safety.

One in seven homes were also found to have poor emergency planning or a potential lack of staff to implement the plan. A similar proportion of homes had problems with their protected escape corridors, with failures also relating to fire doors at 29% of the homes inspected.

One in ten of the homes inspected also provided inadequate training for staff and the brigade said it feared that fire safety training for care home staff was becoming generic.

Of the 177 homes inspected, 101 (57%) were issued with a formal notification instructing them to address safety concerns. The brigade said it believed the findings would be repeated if similar inspections were carried out across the country.

Dan Daly, London Fire Brigade Assistant Commissioner has said: “We sincerely urge care homes to take note of the findings in this report, and learn lessons for future inspections.”

Debbie Ivanova, Deputy Chief Inspector at the Care Quality Commission (‘CQC’), has also emphasised that it was the duty of the businesses running the homes to ensure that they had the right fire protection measures in place. She said: “I encourage all care home providers to make full use of these findings so they can make continual improvements that will help keep everyone safe.”

The findings of these inspections serve as a stark warning for care homes and demonstrate the importance for care home providers to have sufficiently robust and fit for purpose fire safety procedures in place to protect service users. This includes specialist fire safety training for staff, comprehensive fire risk assessments, and adequate fire exits and safety equipment.

These findings are likely to drive CQC inspectors to scrutinise care homes’ fire safety compliance more rigorously and take enforcement action where providers are failing to meet the required standards.

At Stephensons, we have specialist experience of representing and advising care providers in relation to compliance and enforcement action by their professional regulators, such as the CQC. If you require any advice and assistance, please contact our specialist CQC lawyers now on 0175 321 6399.

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