Homerton Hospital could be charged tens of thousands of pounds for false alarms by Fire Brigade under rules brought in today

Homerton University Hospital, Homerton Row.

Homerton University Hospital, Homerton Row. - Credit: Archant

»A cash-strapped hospital could be forced to pay tens of thousands of pounds to the fire brigade after it started charging for false alarm call-outs.

From New Year’s Day, the London Fire Brigade (LFB) became the first service in the country to recover costs from buildings like hospitals, airports and student halls of residence if they have too many false call outs.

They hope the charging scheme will encourage buildings to improve the maintenance of their alarms in order to reduce needless call-outs and cited Homerton hospital in Homerton Row, Homerton as the seventh worst hospital culprit in the capital with 87 call-outs in 2012/13.

With fines set at nearly £350 for every false call out after the first 10, Homerton Hospital would have had to fork out £26,796 in penalties if the charges has been in place last year.

Fire Brigade Union executive council member for London Ian Leahair blasted the move, saying: “It’s all coming out of the public purse. The public pay us to go out and they pay for hospitals. Every week we are seeing that the NHS is falling into further crisis.

“If we start charging them, this will hurt them further and could help lead to hospital closures.

“We would rather be called out to hospitals and find out it’s a false alarm than to a full fire that’s unnoticed.”

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A spokesman for Homerton hospital said: “Apart from people setting off the alarm, a problem for any public building, a number were due to contractor errors and issues such as steam escape.

“We do encourage staff to take rapid action in the event of a potential fire hazard but recognise there are steps we could take to avoid unnecessary calls.

“We are working with our colleagues in the fire service to seek ways in which we can manage these calls in future and ensure false alarms are reduced.”

James Cleverly, chairman of the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority, said: “This is not a money-making exercise but we are leading the way in recovering spend on unwanted call outs.”