Shelley Dolan, chief nurse at the Royal Marsden Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said nurses at the hospital provided care for evacuated patients in the street, at a local church and then at the nearby Royal Brompton heart hospital following the blaze last Wednesday afternoon.
‘It became apparent that there was smoke pouring into one of our wards,’ Ms Dolan told NT. ‘Nurses immediately moved the patients from the ward to the ward next door to keep them safe away from the fire.’
But, as the fire spread, all staff and patients had to be evacuated from the world-famous cancer hospital in Chelsea into the wintry conditions outside.
‘One of our nurses has a friend who runs the church that is adjacent to the hospital,’ Ms Dolan said. ‘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,’ she added.
As NT went to press, 37 inpatients from Royal Marsden were still at the Royal Brompton, which is a few hundred yards away.
‘Our nurses are working on the wards in the Brompton, so every Royal Marsden patient is looked after by a Royal Marsden nurse and senior and junior doctor,’ Ms Dolan said.
She added that she hoped to relocate these patients to unaffected areas of the Royal Marsden this week.
‘The nurses have been fantastic – from the most junior to the most senior, everybody has given their time,’ she said. ‘People worked double shifts and came in on their days off.’
Prime minister Gordon Brown said the reaction of staff had shown the NHS at its best and pledged that rebuilding work would begin immediately.
A total of 79 inpatients were evacuated, including two patients who were in surgery at the time and three who were in post-operative recovery.
The cause of the fire has yet to be established.