FIRE crews were sent out to false alarm calls at Sunderland Royal Hospital almost 100 times during the past year, it has been revealed.
The hospital is in the top 20 places for call-outs in the UK for 2012/13, after officers went out on 99 separate occasions to the facility.
Crews were called out 43 times after staff genuinely thought they could smell fire, while patients and visitors accidentally breaking glass units to get out of wards led to 27 false alarms.
There were also 20 occasions when system faults led to call-outs. Health bosses say the alarm system is now being improved to reduce the call-out rate. Food processing and smoking materials have been the cause of nine false activations.
The costly problems means appliances and officers have to deal with the call-outs while they could be tackling genuine emergencies.
Fire crews in the Tyne and Wear area were called out more than 2,670 times in the past year to deal with automatic alarms, although the number of false call-outs to the brigade has fallen since 2009/10 when it launched a scheme to educate businesses who repeatedly have false alarms on their premises.
Gateshead Queen Elizabeth Hospital had 60 false automatic alarm call-outs, while Newcastle General Hospital had 51. Durham’s County Hall was visited 30 times by fire crews.
Kevin Gardner, area manager for Tyne and Wear Fire and Rescue Service, said: “We are working closely with a range of diverse partners including hospitals, shopping centres, student accommodation and local housing associations in an effort to reduce the number of calls from automatic fire alarms.
“This is reducing the amount of false alarm calls substantially, which means the service can use its resources more effectively at real emergencies.”
A spokesman for City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust said: “The trust is working continuously to reduce its false alarms.
“All staff undergo mandatory annual fire training to maintain essential information and high level awareness.”