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Patients evacuated after hospital blaze

An emergency department has been closed after a fire broke out at a hospital.

Patients were evacuated from part of the Chesterfield Royal Hospital in Derbyshire after the blaze started last night.

It is understood to have begun in a shop near the main entrance of the building in Calow, Chesterfield.

A hospital spokeswoman said the fire was out by about 1am, but that there was "considerable smoke and fire damage" to A and E and the fracture clinic.

She said fire crews were still at the hospital early today checking for remaining hot spots.

Derbyshire Fire and Rescue Service battled to contain the blaze which spread to the first floor and broke through the roof.

A spokesman said 15 patients had been transferred to another building.

With 10 appliances called to the scene, crews used an aerial platform, water jets and thermal imaging cameras to tackle the flames.

The first call came at 9.20pm after an automatic alarm went off.

East Midlands ambulance service transferred 999 patients to other hospitals, with many going to King's Mill in Nottinghamshire, the hospital spokeswoman said.

Sarah Turner-Saint, head of communications at Royal Chesterfield Hospital, said the A and E department would remain shut "for the foreseeable future".

She added: "The good news is that there have been no casualties and we have not had to close any wards."

An investigation into the cause of the fire will begin later today.

Eric Morton, chief executive of the Chesterfield Royal Hospital, paid tribute to staff and the emergency services who "worked incredibly hard to ensure hospital services have been minimally affected".

He added: "There is extensive damage to some areas but we will work as quickly as we can to repair this.

"We hope to have services back up to full strength within the next couple of days - albeit with some longer term reconstruction."

An assessment will be carried out today to establish when the A and E unit and the fracture clinic can reopen, the hospital said.

It also confirmed around 15 stretcher patients were transferred to other facilities in the region as a result of the fire.

Others were moved to a clinic in another part of the hospital to receive treatment.

Three staff members from A and E were sent to work in a minor injuries unit established at the ambulance station at Ashgate, Derbyshire, to ease the workload of the East Midlands Ambulance Service.