The following is an example of why training in the use of evacuation chairs is critical.
Campaigners are calling for health bosses to review fire safety procedures at all of the city’s health centres.
It follows an incident at the newly-opened Belgrave Health Centre in which members of a patients’ group were left panicking about how to get a colleague in a wheelchair down from the second floor when a fire alarm sounded.
Suresh Nagar, who was in the wheelchair, said he was frightened as fellow members of the Cross Street Surgery patients’ group tried to get him into an evacuation chair – a wheeled chair specially designed to get down stairs – and take him to the ground floor.
The 61-year-old, from Belgrave, said: “I was so scared when the alarm went off and friends tried to get me into that chair, but it was no good and they couldn’t get far down the stairs.”
Mr Nagar said he suffered some bruising in the battle to get him down the stairs and was now “too scared to go back into that building” unless he was on the ground floor.
Ved Dhiman, chairman of the patients’ group, said: “We couldn’t operate the evacuation chair and Mr Nagar, and us, were panicking trying to get out of the building.”
Mr Nagar was evacuated from the building by firefighters, who established there was no fire in the building.
A spokesman for NHS Leicester City, which runs the health centres, said if a group was meeting in a centre it was the members’ responsibility to sign in with a receptionist and to notify him or her if any of the party was disabled.
He said: “There would have been a trained member of staff on duty at the time of the patient group meeting but they may not have been aware there was a wheelchair user in the group.”
The spokesman said there was a “fire refuge” on each floor designed to keep a disabled person safe from smoke and fire for at least half an hour, giving time for them to be rescued.
He said the evacuation chair on each floor should only be used by a trained person on duty.
However, Ballu Patel, chairman of the Leicester Mercury Patients’ Panel, said he wanted a review of fire safety procedures. He said: “We must be sure staff are fully trained in fire evacuation and that there are fire marshals for every floor. In this instance, this doesn’t seem to have happened.
“The health centre is a public building with two busy GP practices and people visiting for other appointments. It is not practical to ask everyone to sign in and out.
“There must be a review of procedures.”
A spokesman for Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service said the manager of the crew which attended had no concerns about the building and had given the group advice on how to respond to a fire alarm.