26 February 2019

26th February 1968 - fire in mental hospital kills 21


On 26th February 1968 Twenty-one female patients died in a fire which swept through a wing of the Shelton Mental Hospital near Shrewsbury.

The following is a summary from what was said in Parliament on 26th February and 16th December 1968...

The Minister of Health, Kenneth Robinson, told parliament that the fire started at about midnight on the first floor of a two-storey building which accommodated women psychiatric patients. Forty-two patients were sleeping on this floor at the time - mainly elderly, and some bed-ridden. Twenty-one of these patients died and 14 were being treated in hospital. The ground floor ward was undamaged by the fire

An inquiry was set up and reported back that the cause of the fire was almost certainly a lighted cigarette end left in an easy chair in the day room. The hospital had a modern fire alarm system and procedures but they were not properly used: nurses had not received adequate training in hospital fire procedures - including the evacuation of patients. There was delay after smoke was first seen before the Fire Service was summoned. This was partly the failure of the night nurse to give the warning, and partly an order requiring authority from a hospital fire officer before calling the Fire Service.

Thankyou to BBC On This Day for the date

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