Terrified patients forced to flee major hospital 'in the dark' after power outage

Patients have spoken of the dramatic moment they were forced to evacuate a major city hospital 'in the dark' after a critical incident was declared. People being treated at the Bristol Royal Infirmary said they heard what some thought was an 'explosion' as they were plunged into darkness and told to leave the site immediately.

Multiple emergency services attended the scene in Bristol city centre after what hospital bosses have since described as a 'power outage'.

But those forced to flee said there was significant confusion about what was happening - with some claiming it was a ceiling collapse and others saying sparks were flying causing a fire. Lisa Davidson, 50, a housewife from Bristol, was having a blood infusion inside for Crohn's disease.

She said: "All the lights went off and they kept flashing on and off. Then they told us to go out, we couldn’t find our way out. We tried to get out from the main entrance but that was locked so we had to come out from the car park. It was really scary, I felt a bit upset. They had to stop my infusions to evacuate. It was like a nightmare."

A fire engine and police cars
Emergency services on scene at the Bristol Royal Infirmary -Credit:Paul Gillis/BristolLive

Sarah, 56, office manager, from Somerset, said she had been waiting along with her sister outside the hospital for more than two hours waiting to see her elderly mother with dementia. She said "We arrived at about 3 o’clock and they said there had been a power outage.

"They weren’t giving very much information so it’s just what we’ve heard from people walking past, it seems like it’s quite a lot of fire engines. Our mum came into into A and E with a leg wound in the early hours this morning.

"She’s 88 with Alzheimer's and we can’t see her. It’s quite shocking. The incident is scary enough. She been through a lot of upheaval over the last few weeks, we thought us being here would be reassuring but we don’t know how long we’ll be out here.

"We just got told to get a coffee. We don’t know what’s going on and we can’t speak to anyone connected to the A and E ward. They said there were no phone lines, but she’s been in there since 3am. We don’t know why she’s inside, and we can’t go in. It is worrying because we don’t know to what extent this incident has affected things inside the hospital."

William Cullen, 53, who works in WHSmith as store manager inside the hospital, said: "I work for WHSmith in the store and everybody’s been told to evacuate. It went dark and there was an alarm going off, which didn’t go off straight away.

"There was a lot of confusion, there was no communication. There was news of someone saying there was an explosion. A&E is two floors up so it’s come from that area. We’re used to doing it as they have an annual fire evacuation. But we had to remove a customer from the store who was a patient."

One patient said they've now been waiting outside for several hours and didn't know when they would be able to return.

They added: "When we were on the ward they told us to go and to go out through the stairs, through the entrance bit and bombard past all the security. They said 'just get out' so that’s what I did at about quarter past two.

"I’ve just been stood outside since then. I just know I needed to get out. I feel alright now I’m out. I just feel cold and want to go back, but only when it’s safe."

Multiple fire engines and police on horseback have been pictured at the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) after what bosses described as a 'power outage'. University Hospitals Bristol and Weston NHS Foundation Trust said it was affecting its hospitals in Bristol city centre.

The Trust runs multiple sites in the centre of the city including The Bristol Royal Infirmary (The BRI), Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, St Michael's Hospital and Bristol Eye Hospital.

Interim chief medical officer at UHBW Dr Rebecca Maxwell said: “We have declared a critical incident due to a power outage. We aim to have this fully resolved as soon as possible. All patients, visitors and colleagues are safe.

"We ask the public not to attend our Bristol city centre hospitals until the incident is resolved and use alternative services in the area. We thank you for your cooperation.”

Avon Fire and Rescue Service said there were currently 10 appliances in attendance outside the hospital. Avon and Somerset Police have also attended and are managing road closures. People needing urgent medical help are being advised to contact NHS 111.