Firefighters practise life-saving techniques at empty hospital

by Alex Cameron

Westbury fire service crop 1500

An empty hospital in Wiltshire is to be used by local firefighters to practise vital lifesaving techniques.

An agreement between NHS Property Services, which owns the vacant and surplus former Westbury Hospital, and Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service will see firefighters conduct breathing apparatus training drills at the site.

The hospital, off The Butts, ceased operation in April 2012 following the opening of the nearby White Horse Medical Centre and has been declared surplus to NHS requirements by NHS healthcare commissioners (Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS England).

The temporary agreement was reached after Robbie MacPherson, a retained firefighter at Westbury Fire Station, proposed the idea to NHS Property Services, saying the empty building offered a perfect opportunity to practise techniques.

Robbie said: “We are always on the lookout for buildings where we can practise search and rescue techniques. We’re very grateful to NHS Property Services for allowing us to use the hospital as it presents a great opportunity to simulate rescues in an unfamiliar environment.

“We’d like to reassure the community that there is no need to be alarmed if you see firefighters at the hospital conducting training drills.”

The practice sessions, by firefighters from Westbury Fire Station and other local units, will not involve water, smoke or fires.

James Wakeham, regional director for NHS Property Services, added: “We are pleased to be supporting the vital work of local firefighters by providing this vacant and surplus site to help them train for real-life emergencies.”

The fire service intends to announce practice drills on its Twitter (@DWFireRescue) and Facebook feeds to reassure local people.

A formal licence agreement between NHS Property Services and Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service has been put in place to safeguard the property and any protected animal species at the site. The fire service says the training sessions should not disturb neighbours of the site.