FIREFIGHTERS are being called to false alarms three times every week on average at Worcestershire hospitals.

Figures from NHS Digital show the fire and rescue service were called out to false alarms 152 times in the 12 months to March, at premises run by the Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust.

This was one of the highest number of call-outs for any NHS trust in England.

According to the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), false alarms are a growing problem and are a "considerable drain" on fire and rescue service resources.

They could pose a risk to safety by diverting firefighters away from genuine emergencies or by causing complacency towards what could be real alarms, it said.

Paul McCourt, from the NFCC, said: "False fire alarm activations cause huge problems for the NHS and the Fire and Rescue Service.

"Every year thousands of staff hours are lost due to false alarms and Unwanted Fire Signals.

"This affects both fire and health service delivery, business continuity and patient care."

False alarms at Worcestershire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust sites have increased by 73 per cent in five years.

Data captured before 2017-18 does not reveal how many of the false alarms resulted in firefighters being called, and how many were resolved without them attending.

However, in 2017-18 firefighters attended every single false alarm.

Across England, the number of call-outs to NHS trusts rose by 8 per cent last year from 6,533 in 2016-17 to 7,065 in 2017-18.

The majority of false alarms are caused by automatic systems, which may summon the fire service as soon as they activate.

Most are caused by faulty, damaged or badly maintained systems, or things such as burnt toast, steam or dust.

Sara Gorton, from the health workers union UNISON, said it was "yet another example" of underfunding in the NHS.

"False fire alarms are not only disruptive for staff and patients, but also pose a risk to their safety," she added. It’s time the government acted to address the rising backlog of repairs affecting trusts."

Since 2011 fire services have the power to charge non-domestic premises - including NHS sites - if they are persistently called to false alarms because of faulty automatic fire alarms.

A spokeswoman for NHS Improvement said: “All NHS hospitals take fire safety seriously.

"This includes following national fire safety regulations which require them to maintain their automatic fire detection systems.

“We would expect all NHS trusts to put measures in place to minimise the number of false fire alarms, while ensuring the safety of patients and staff.”