Monday, 10 December 2018
Friday, 23 October 2015
Updated Saturday 24 October

Water mains burst cuts-off Wexham Park Hospital

  • 5 a.m. break under Wexham Road verge
  • Hospital toilets out-of-action, can not flush
  • 4 emergency water tankers at hospital
  • Repair crew work into night to restore supplies

Report and photographs: Paul Janik

Around 5:00 a.m. this morning, a 10 inch (25cm) diameter highly pressurised main feeder water supply pipe serving homes and business in the Wexham area of Slough and Slough's major acute hospital, Wexham Park, disintegrated.

It happened under the grass verge on the east side of Wexham Road, just north of the junction with Norway Drive. High pressure water rapidly flooded the grass verge and the whole width of Wexham Road.

Instantly water pressures dropped. Soon some homes had no water, not even for a cup of tea or to flush the loo. Other homes experienced greatly reduced water water pressure down to a trickle.

Wexham Park Hospital was seriously affected. As its water tanks started to empty some operations were cancelled. Visitors, staff and patients in wards were told not to use the toilets. Instead they had to use disposable containers meant for bed-ridden patients and then give them to the nursing staff to empty.

Hard-working nursing staff had to stop caring for patients whilst they emptied toilet containers and then thoroughly and carefully washed their hands before going back to their patients. The already under-pressure nursing staff deserve praise for coping so smoothly and professionally with an extra time-consuming task in addition to their normal work.

As the water crisis got worse, the hospital and Thames Water held a conference telephone call.

Emergency water tankers arrived late

A witness told the Slough Times the first emergency water tankers arrived at the hospital at 14:40 and took 30 minutes pumping water into the hospital's virtually depleted tanks. The same witness said hospital staff were told not to use any water until 17:20. The Slough Times understands the hot water taps were still giving "tepid" water at 10:00 on Saturday morning.

Thames Water told the Slough Times 4 water tankers had been sent to the hospital. One was connected and pumping water. The second was waiting next to the first and the other two were ready nearby.

A hospital governor, who insisted on not being named, told the Slough Times the appalling lack of vital investment in the hospital's infrastructure under previous chief executive Phillipa Slinger was to blame.

The governor criticised the lack of professionalism and ability in NHS director circles saying the water crisis would have been minimum if strategic planning had been done, adding Too much public money has been spent on top salaries and generous perks for people unable to deliver.

Wexham School sends children home

At nearby Wexham School, in Norway Drive, with circa 450 pupils aged 11 to 16, an emergency meeting was held at 08:00. The senior management decided to close the school. Arriving school children were refused entry and sent home. The school's closure decision caused distress and worry for many parents, especially those who had to chose between loosing a day's pay or frantically finding an alternative care arrangement for their children.

Thames Water's statement

Issued: 11:30 am Today, Friday 23 October 2015.

Repairs underway to burst water pipe on Wexham Road.

Thames Water is working hard to repair a burst water pipe on Wexham Road this morning which is affecting water supplies to some customers in parts of the SL2 and SL3 postcode areas.

Part of Wexham Road is currently closed but is expected to reopen around lunchtime, however there will be temporary two-way traffic lights in place to allow Thames Water workers to safely fix the broken ten-inch diameter pipe which is approximately a metre underground.

It is currently unclear exactly how long it will be before water supplies return to normal, so in the meantime bottled water is available for collection from Wexham Court Parish Hall on Norway Drive where Thames Water staff are on hand to answer questions . The company is in contact with vulnerable customers in the area such as care homes and those with special medical needs to ensure water is available for them. They are also using tankers to feed water into its network of pipes which supply local homes and businesses to keep disruption to supplies to a minimum.

Thames Water operations manager Rob Sellens said:

We're really sorry for the inconvenience to affected customers. We're working hard and hope to have the burst pipe repaired later today so we can get the road and water supplies back to normal but, in the meantime, anyone whose supply is affected is welcome to come and see us at the Parish Hall to collect their bottled water.

Updates on the situation will be available on thameswater.co.uk

Hospital Trust refuses to comment

The Slough Times asked Frimley Health NHS Trust, who manage and control Wexham Park Hospital, for a copy of their comments about the hospital's water supply being cut-off.

A polite press spokesman, acting on instructions from Nicola Wesson, Frimley Health NHS Trust's  Deputy Director Communications, Marketing & Engagement said Frimley Health NHS Trust would not give information to the Slough Times because the Slough Times was not licensed.

The hospital spokesman said they did not know why licenses were required or who issues the licenses necessary to receive public information from Frimley Health NHS Trust.

An aggressive stranger, Nicola Wesson, then came on the telephone line and robustly lectured the Slough Times saying the Slough Times:

  1. Had no Code of Conduct to receive information from Frimley Health
  2. Was not formerly trained to receive information from Frimley Health
  3. Was not registered with the National Union of Journalists for receiving information from Frimley Health

The Slough Times repeatedly asked rapidly speaking Nicola Wesson to slow down and repeat her words for our accurate notes. Confronted by the incredible outburst from what appeared to be a raving nutter (escaped from an insecure hospital ward ?) the Slough Times decided to gently and politely end the weird telephone call.

Unfortunately Frimley Health's deputy chief spin doctor did not want to praise the hospital's clinical staff for coping so well in extremely difficult and challenging circumstances. Little wonder many of the dedicated hard-working staff feel unappreciated by Frimley Health's bosses.

Nicola Wesson was previously an Assistant Director of PR at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, Reading.