HC Deb 16 December 1968 vol 775 cc268-70W
116. Sir J. Langford-Holt

asked the Secretary of State for Social Services whether he has received the report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the circumstances leading to a fire at Shelton Hospital, Shrewsbury, on the night of 25th-26th February, 1968, and to the deaths of 24 patients; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. Ennals

Yes. Copies of the report will be placed in the Library of the House and made available to the Press today.

The principal conclusions of the report are that the origin of the fire was almost certainly a lighted cigarette end left in an easy chair in the day room of the ward concerned; that the hospital had a modern fire alarm system but it was not used properly; and that there was delay after smoke was first seen before the Fire Service was summonded. The failure of the night nurse in charge of the ward to give warning of the fire earlier was a vital factor in the disaster but there were other contributory factors for which she was not responsible. These factors were, first, the existence of orders requiring the night porter to obtain the authority of one of the hospital fire officers before calling the Fire Service, and, secondly, the failure of those in responsible positions to ensure that all nurses received training in fire procedure, including the evacuation of patients, as recommended in a report by the Shropshire Fire Service in 1963 and in the standing guidance on fire precautions issued to all hospitals by my Department in 1966.

Copies of the report have been sent to the Birmingham Regional Hospital Board and the Shrewsbury Management Committee. My right hon. Friend has asked them to report to him urgently on the action already taken or still to be taken to remedy the deficiencies disclosed in it.

My Department wrote to all hospital authorities in April this year asking them to examine their fire precautions in the light of the Department's standing guidance and drawing attention to the great

Name Date of first appointment to the Board Local authority area in which resident
Chairman appointed to 31st March, 1969
J. T. Lewis. Esq., O.B.E., J.P. October, 1962 Wolverhampton C.B.
Other Members appointed to 31st March, 1969
J. P. Bull, Esq., M.D., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. April, 1964 Birmingham C.B.
R. C. Hansen, Esq., J.P. November, 1967 Hereford M.B.
G. C. Haynes, Esq. April, 1957 Wolverhampton C.B.
Miss E. M. Powell, S.R.N. April, 1966 Oswestry M.B.
L. G. Symour, Esq., J.P. May, 1954 Solihull C.B.
Sir Arthur Thomson, M.C.. M.D., L.D., F.R.C.P. April, 1951 Birmingham C.B.
R. D. Turner, Esq. July, 1966 Kidderminster R.D.
Miss S. Wright (Mrs. Gregory) April, 1966 Birmingham C.B.
Members appointed to 31st March, 1970
G. V. Grimshaw, Esq. April, 1949 Rugby M.B.
J. C. Heather, Esq., M.D., F.R.C.P. April, 1951 Solihull C.B.
Alderman Mrs. R. F. Ilsley, J.P. April, 1966 Wolverhampton C.B.
B. C. Kirk, Esq., J.P. November, 1967 Birmingham C.B.
A. J. McCall, Esq., M.D.. F.R.C.P., M.R.C.S., F.C.Fath. April, 1967 Newcastle-under-Lyme M.B.
J. Glyn Picton, Esq April, 1958 Birmingham C.B.
The Right Reverend the Bishop of Lichfield July, 1954 Lichfield M.B.
Professor W. H. Trethowan, F.R.C.P., F.R.A.C.P., M.R.C.S., D.P.M. April, 1964 Birmingham C.B.
S. R. Whittaker Esq., D.L.. M.D., F.R.C.P., M.R.C.S. April, 1958 Warwick M.B.
Members appointed to 31st March, 1971
Mrs. V. E. d'Abreu, S.R.N. April, 1962 Alcester R.D.
Mrs. J. Cole April, 1965 Birmingham C.B.
Mrs. E. Emery, O.B.E., J.P. June, 1958 Warwick M.B.
F. W. Leath, Esq., J.P. April. 1968 Shrewsbury M.B.
T. C. McKenzie, Esq.. O.B.E., T.D., D.L., J.P., M.R.C.S., L.R.C.P. April, 1959 Warley C.B.
Mrs. T. Stewart April, 1968 Birmingham C.B.
R. A. B.Thomas, Esq. April, 1962 Stafford R.D.
J. WrigM, Esq., C.B.E. April, 1968 Meriden R.D.

importance of training staff. This letter also advised that rooms where smoking is permitted should be inspected after they are vacated for the night. A new edition of my Department's standing guidance to hospitals on fire precautions is due to be issued early next year which will reinforce previous guidance and will take account of the general considerations on which the Committee of Enquiry commented.

I should like to add my own deep regrets to those expressed by my right hon. Friend the previous Minister of Health on this tragic occurrence.