Half of fire brigade call outs are false alarms and hospitals are repeated culprits

© Michaelpuche | Dreamstime.com - Fire Service. Photo-2Some of London’s leading hospitals are calling out the fire brigade the equivalent of 3 times a week with false alarms.

Fire Officers arrived at the Royal Free Hospital in Hampstead 120 times last year only to find out it was a false alarm, according to data from the London Fire Brigade.  St George’s University Hospital in Tooting recorded 111 false alarm incidents.

This has been a consistent problem for a number of years.  The data shows that in 2013 St George’s had 138 false alarms, rising to 165 in 2014. The Royal Free recorded 137 in 2014 and 141 in 2013.  Each time at least 2 fire engines were sent to the hospital.

While these 2 hospitals have the poorest record for bogus alerts others also seem to have a problem. The figures for last year show 63 incidents at the Homerton University Hospital in Hackney, 57 at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Woolwich, 48 at Chase Farm Hospital in Enfield and 46 at University College Hospital on the Euston Road.

London hospitals were responsible for 1,181 false alarms in 2015, and this has been an improvement.  In 2014 it was 1,718 incidents and in 2013, 2,407.

The London Fire Brigade charges £295 for each false alarm if there are more than 10 incidents in a year, so hard-pressed hospitals are paying tens of thousands of pounds each year.

False alarms have a huge impact on the costs and resources of the London Fire Brigade. Last year it dealt with 95,540 incidents and nearly half of them were false alarms.

Most are incidents at family homes, followed by sheltered housing and blocks of flats.  Offices accounted for 3,428 incidents, or 7%, and shops were to blame for nearly 4%. While hospitals make up just 2.5% of the total number last year it is the repeated call outs that are striking.

The vast majority are triggered by alarm systems and recorded by the London Fire Brigade as AFAs (automated false alarms).  Many alarm systems are monitored by the manufacturer or service provider who alert the fire brigade when one goes off.  This is often caused by a malfunction.

The London Fire Brigade says that dealing with AFAs reduces its capacity to deal with real emergencies and can interrupt training or community safety work.

Source data

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Thousands of children sent to hospital because of tooth decay


Photo: Dimijana ┃Shutterstock.com

Thousands of children, most of them under 10, are having teeth extracted in hospital because of decay. It is the most common reason for children between 5 and 9 to be admitted to hospital.

While many extractions take place in a dental surgery more difficult cases or ones where multiple teeth need to be removed are often referred to hospital. This is more common in younger children where a general anesthetic may be needed to perform the procedure.

London has one of the poorest records in England. Data gathered from dental hospitals for each local authority across the country for 2013-14 shows that 0.7% of under 19s in the capital were admitted to have a tooth or multiple teeth removed due to decay. That’s 13,787 children and teenagers. The figures do not include surgery on impacted wisdom teeth, often treated in hospital, which affects those over 18.

Improvements in dentistry and people’s care of their teeth mean that extractions are far less common than in the past but they are the only solution if a tooth cannot be repaired by a filling or a root canal.

The record in London is much worse that elsewhere in the South of England. In the South East region it is just 0.3% of children. Only Yorkshire and Humberside has a higher rate than London.

tooth exraction children chart

Rates are markedly higher in some parts of the capital – indicated by the darker area on the map. In Hammersmith and Fulham 1.2% of children ended up in hospital for an extraction. In neighbouring Richmond it is just 0.4%.

tooth extraction children map

The leading cause of tooth decay is frequent exposure to sugary drinks and snacks. Poor dental hygiene and failure to use fluoride toothpaste are also to blame. But Public Health England says that there is a correlation between levels of dental decay and levels of deprivation.

Its survey of levels of tooth decay in under 5s, published in 2013, showed that as with the figures on extractions, London had one of the poorest records, along with Yorkshire, Humberside and the North West.

33% of under 5s in London were found to have dental decay compared to a national average of 27%. But in Brent and Tower Hamlets the rate was 46% while in Kingston and Richmond it was below 20%.

The survey showed that the rate of dental decay had improved since the previous study in 2008 in every region except London.

Dental decay remains a significant public health problem and the NHS recommends that all children should have a dental check up once a year to prevent serious cases of decay going untreated and leading to extractions.

Data on tooth extractions

Hospital admission statistic

See also

Childhood obesity highest in London

1 in 3 kids growing up in out-of-work households in parts of London

Baby booming Wandsworth is the city’s kiddie capital