A CHEMICAL on the clothes of a patient at Basingstoke hospital sparked an evacuation of part of the emergency department, after firefighters were told five staff complained of being sick and dizzy and a smell of gas was reported.

Ambulances with emergency patients were diverted away from Basingstoke between around 8pm last night and 1am this morning as firefighters investigated the bizarre incident.

Mary Edwards, chief executive of Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said there had been no gas leak, explaining that the smell was emanating from the clothes of a patient who had earlier been treated in the department.

She said: “The fire service was called to the emergency department at Basingstoke hospital shortly because of a smell which was initially thought to be gas.

“The smell was actually from a chemical on the clothing of a patient who had been treated earlier.

“Staff acted quickly in raising the alarm.”

The fire service were alerted at 8.03pm and 18 firefighters rushed to the scene.

The firefighters, who attended in five appliances from Basingstoke and Winchester stations, declared the situation a hazardous materials incident.

The resuscitation area of the department had already been evacuated by the time they arrived, with patients moved to nearby rooms.

Crew manager at Basingstoke fire station, David Bowen, said “When we arrived they had evacuated the resus department and five members of staff had started to feel the effects of gas with sickness and dizziness.”

He said they had to go into the emergency department to remove vital resuscitation equipment.

They eventually left the scene at 11.30pm and, despite a thorough investigation, were not able to determine the cause of the incident.

Crew manager Bowen said: “We were there for a long time, used all of our equipment to determine the cause but could not find anything.

“Whatever caused the staff to feel ill was gone when we turned up.”