The man who cried ‘Fire!’
By guest blogger JEF SMITH
On 27 June, David Behan, the chief executive of the Care Quality Commission wrote to all providers of care homes in England on the issue of fire safety. He was motivated of course by the Grenfell Tower disaster which has occurred a fortnight earlier. Makes sense?
No, actually it doesn’t make sense. It is difficult to believe that anyone who ever looks at television, listens to the radio, reads a newspaper, talks to friends, or relates to any social media is not aware of and has not been deeply moved by the horror of the North Kensington fire. And is it possible that anyone who lives in, has relatives who live in, or has responsibility for a sizeable building has not asked themselves whether those premises might be vulnerable to a fate similar to that which overtook Grenfell Tower?
Does it really need the national regulator of care quality to make the simple, indeed almost insulting, point that a fire like this should prompt all of us to think again about fire safety? As recently as April, fires occurred in two homes – Newgrange in Cheshunt and Stanton House in Tamworth – which resulted respective in two deaths and the hospitalisation of seven residents. If there are lessons to be learned from case studies, these are much more likely to be relevant than an inferno in a tower block.
It gets worse. The letter advises homes to ‘pay special attention to those at higher risk’ and then gives the examples of ‘mobility impairment or learning disability’. What on earth is such advice supposed to prompt? ‘Ah, yes, if we had a fire, we had better think about the people who can’t walk very quickly or don’t easily understand what’s going on. How helpful of Sir David to make the point’?
Inspections, the letter goes on to state, have sometimes ‘identified fire safety issues’. On the other hand, ‘some providers maintain their premises and equipment safely’. Well, what a surprise; planning for residents’ safety, one of the five key qualities CQC inspects, is rather variable! Sir David’s letter in fact looks less like a responsible reminder than something between a statement of the bleeding obvious and an opportunistic – and frankly rather tasteless – attempt to jump on a bandwagon. Surely CQC has better things to do with its time.
- The CT Blog is written in a personal capacity – comments and opinions expressed are not necessarily endorsed or supported by Caring Times.