NT: What happened when the fire broke out?
SD: It was completely fantastic [the nurses] rose to the occasion. It became apparent that there was smoke pouring into one of our wards.
The sister on the ward located the senior sister on the ward next door. They immediately moved the patients from the ward to the ward next door to keep them safe away from the fire.
I was over in another part of the hospital. I ran over and we started to realise that we were going to have to move patients not only horizontally but vertically.
NT: It was a very cold day…what challenges did that pose once it became apparent that you needed to evacuate the patients?
SD: The local community were absolutely fantastic. One of our nurses has a friend who runs the church that is adjacent to the hospital. We tried to have patients in the street for as little time as possible and moved them into the church.
Within five minutes we had the Royal Brompton Hospital contacting us and their chief nurse came over and started helping us. We also began to move patients to the church.
NT: What are your nurses doing now to look after the patients evacuated?
SD: Our nurses are working on the wards in the Brompton so that every Royal Marsden patient is looked after by a Royal Marsden nurse and senior and junior doctor. At the moment we are occupying two parts of the hospital and we have a senior nurse coordinating each site.
We have got nurses manning helplines for families, although that has mainly stepped down now. They are now helping patients worried about treatment so we are able to reassure them about it.
NT: What is going to happen next?
SD: Our firm plan is to open our outpatients from Monday, along with our day care facility. We are hoping with that we will be able to move our last patients from the Brompton into our inpatient wards on Monday. Then hopefully at the end of next week we will be able to start admitting patients again to the Royal Marsden.
The nurses have been fantastic from the most junior to the most senior, everybody has given their time. People worked double shifts, came in on their days off. I would like to say thank you to the lead cancer nurses around the world who have supported us.
Peter Carter from the RCN also telephoned us offering support. Nurses around the world have been so supportive to us.
Interview by Richard Staines