CLADDING from buildings on the Great Western Hospital has been sent for testing by fire experts.

It comes after fears that the aluminium cladding designed to insulate the buildings could be flammable.

In June, cladding was blamed for rapid spread of the Grenfell Tower fire that claimed dozens of lives in West London.

Bosses at GWH on Thursday confirmed that fire experts had visited the hospital at the end of last month to take cladding samples.

It emerged that cladding on the Brunel Treatment Centre and Savernake Community Hospital, Marlborough, was made from steel – and not the aluminium-type cladding that NHS chiefs want tested.

However, samples of the aluminium cladding on GWH were taken on Friday July 28 by specialist contractors Clearline.

Contractors Mitie visited the Swindon Intermediate Care Centre, which sits on the GWH site, on Wednesday July 19.

All of the cladding samples have been sent to BRE, who are testing cladding from hospitals and council buildings across the country on behalf of the Department for Communities and Local Government.

Fire safety experts will check the core of the cladding panels to check how fire-proof they are.

In a paper to the Great Western Hospital NHS Foundation Trust’s board of directors, Kevin McNamara, the hospital director of strategy, and Rupert Turk, deputy director of the estates, warned that it could be some time before the outcome of the cladding tests are known.

If the tests show that the cladding is of the more combustible type, the hospital would be expected to put in place a series of interim fire safety measures.

The GWH’s directors said they were already actively considering potential actions should the cladding fail the fire tests. These actions could include reviewing fire action plans and “reducing patient risk exposure”.

At New Cross Hospital, Wolverhampton, where cladding failed the tests, Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trusts have introduced 24/7 fire warden patrols and changed fire safety procedures at the site.

GWH bosses said that, should the cladding fail, they would need to agree “enhanced” plans with Dorset and Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service and the GWH board. Within two weeks of the test result being announced, the plans would be submitted to the NHS Improvement body, which has demanded cladding tests of all NHS trusts.

Together with the hospital landlord, the trust and fire service would need to come up with a plan for reducing the risk from the failed cladding. It is expected that the landlord would pick up the tab. In the case of the GWH, which was built under a private finance initiative, that would be The Hospital Company.

The GWH's Rupert Turk said: “Following the devastating scenes at Grenfell Tower earlier this summer, we took immediate action to ensure all our buildings are safe and meet current safety regulations. 

“We take fire safety extremely seriously, something Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service saw first-hand during a recent inspection of the Great Western Hospital, and are already looking at what action to take should any of the samples fail the tests.

“The wellbeing of staff and patients is always our number one priority and we will always do whatever is necessary to keep them safe.”

In their paper to the hospital’s board of directors, Kevin McNamara and Rupert Turk also said there had been concerns around a hydrogen gas pipe supplying the Pathology department – from a basement loading bay and up five floors.

The pipe, which carries potentially flammable hydrogen gas, has no automatic isolation or leak detection. Last year a lorry drove into the pipe, causing a gas leak.

A plan to remove the hydrogen pipe would be put in place this month, they told GWH directors. In June, the Swindon Advertiser revealed that Rydon, the contractor behind the Grenfell Tower refurbishment, also built the new £10m NHS health centre in the town's Fleming Way.