A TRAINING exercise had a ward in the Ridgeway Hospital filled with smoke yesterday as firefighters practised their life-saving drills.

Staff volunteered as patients in the simulated emergency at the hospital in Wroughton while firefighters practiced rescuing 12-stone casualties down flights of stairs.

Sarah Hibbert, quality and risk manager at the Ridgeway, organised the exercise.

She said: “We have quite a close working relationship with Wiltshire Fire and Rescue and we thought it would be an opportunity to have an exercise.

“We warned our patients that we would be having an exercise, and they remained cordoned off in a separate part of the building. They were very supportive that we were doing this actually.

“But we didn’t warn our staff so it was as much of a training exercise for them as it was for the fire officers.

“They smoke-filled one of the wards and we had people volunteering as patients in the wards.

“It went really well, there were some issues but that’s what it is all about so we know what to change.

“We have learnt a lot and the staff have been absolutely fantastic.”

The firefighters and the medical staff were working on the narrative that two workmen had been carrying out hot works in the sluice room when the fire broke out. Fire fighters were called, and the alarm sounded.

The exercise lasted about an hour, and involved practising rescuing casualties, using breathing apparatus, and even dealing with the press.

Around 22 firefighters received the training, with crews from Stratton, Westlea and Swindon taking part.

Gregg Izon, Swindon Green Watch manager, said: “It was a great opportunity to do this exercise somewhere we aren’t normally able to train, and a huge thanks goes to the staff at the Ridgeway for letting us use their hospital.

“I think it went really well; although there is definitely room for improvement, that’s why we do these things so we can train for real-life situations and make those improvements.”

Marketing executive at the Ridgeway Hospital Clare Yeoman was one of the volunteer patients taking part in the exercise.

She said: “There were three patients and I had to go into a room behind a fire door.

“It only took a few minutes to fill it with smoke before I went up and it was really thick.

“I came down because I thought it would be a really fun thing to do.”

In the case of a real fire, always call 999.