Ministers admit 34 hospital buildings in England have roofs that would collapse

  • UK News
  • June 30, 2022
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Thirty-four hospital buildings in England have roofs product of concrete that’s so unstable they may fall down at any time, ministers have admitted.

The revelation has prompted renewed fears that ceilings on the hospitals affected would possibly all of the sudden collapse, injuring employees and sufferers, and requires pressing motion to deal with the issue.

Maria Caulfield, a well being minister, made the disclosure in a written reply to a parliamentary query requested by the Liberal Democrats’ well being spokesperson, Daisy Cooper.

Caulfield mentioned surveys carried out by the NHS discovered that 34 buildings at 16 completely different well being trusts contained strengthened autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), which one hospital boss has likened to a “chocolate Aero bar”. RAAC was broadly utilized in constructing hospitals and faculties within the Nineteen Sixties, 70s and 80s however has a 30-year lifespan and is now inflicting critical issues.

In 2020 Simon Corben, NHS England’s director of estates, declared that RAAC planks posed a “vital security threat” as a result of their age meant they may fall down with out warning.

Caulfield’s admission means extra NHS amenities are in danger from RAAC than beforehand thought. Till now it was believed 13 trusts had been affected, however the minister put that determine at 16. Her reply didn’t determine the 16 trusts involved or point out how most of the “34 buildings containing RAAC planks” had been hospitals during which sufferers are handled.

Nonetheless, the identities of a few of the hospitals involved are already recognized, together with Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire, Frimley Park in Surrey and Airedale in Yorkshire.

“It’s merely unthinkable that sufferers are being handled in buildings that may very well be prone to collapse,” mentioned Ed Davey, the Lib Dem chief. “From report ready lists to crumbling hospital roofs, sufferers are paying the worth of years of Conservative neglect of our NHS.”

A number of hospitals at the moment are having to make use of metal props to carry up roofs to cut back the danger of that taking place. One – the Queen Elizabeth in King’s Lynn, close to the Conservative management contender Liz Truss’s south-west Norfolk constituency – is at present deploying no fewer than 1,500 helps.

In a televised management debate along with her rival Rishi Sunak final month, Truss voiced her concern in regards to the giant variety of hospitals in England that had main structural issues. “I’m afraid a few of our hospitals are falling aside. The Queen Elizabeth in King’s Lynn, close to me – bits of the hospital are being held up by stilts. That’s not ok for sufferers throughout the NHS,” she mentioned.

Caroline Shaw, the hospital’s chief government, instructed the Sunday Occasions final month that “the roof is sort of a chocolate Aero bar. There are bubbles within the concrete and we’re checking it every day to verify these bubbles don’t break, and the roof doesn’t come down. It actually is sort of a ticking timebomb.”

She added: “For sufferers who’re mendacity in mattress and seeing these props, it does really feel fairly unsafe.” The hospital needed to evacuate sufferers from its intensive care unit final yr and transfer some to hospitals 40 miles away amid worry that the roof would possibly collapse.

However Davey identified that Truss had been a member of current governments that had resisted pleas from NHS leaders for a serious improve within the service’s capital funds to allow an overhaul of its ageing, typically dangerously insufficient property.

“It’s outrageous that Liz Truss is brazenly referencing that her native constituency hospital has been fitted with these roofs, regardless of sitting in cupboard and being a senior member of successive Conservative governments. This authorities’s failed NHS report of report ready occasions and crumbling hospitals can also be her report of failure,” he mentioned.

Final yr a whistleblower at West Suffolk hospital, which additionally has RAAC planks, revealed to the BBC that it had commissioned a legislation agency to evaluate its threat of dealing with expenses of company manslaughter if a sudden roof collapse proved deadly.

Hinchingbrooke final yr banned sufferers weighing greater than 19 stone from having surgical procedure in two of its working theatres in case it put an excessive amount of pressure on the ground.

Pippa Heylings, a Lib Dem councillor in Cambridgeshire, mentioned: “We wish to see a well being minister at our native hospital this week to see for themselves and at last take pressing motion.”

In her reply, Caulfield instructed Cooper that the Division of Well being and Social Care (DHSC) had put aside £110m “to mitigate the rapid threat” and that trusts would obtain £575m extra to assist. Nonetheless, a number of of the affected trusts say it will be cheaper to construct a brand new hospital than rebuild one riddled with RAAC.

A DHSC spokesperson mentioned: “We’re taking motion to enhance well being infrastructure throughout the nation and have supplied greater than £4bn for trusts to assist native priorities – together with to take care of and refurbish their premises – and have put aside over £685m to straight handle points referring to using RAAC within the NHS property.

“By 2030 we can have 40 new hospitals which is able to present state-of-the-art amenities to make sure world-class provision of healthcare for NHS sufferers and employees by changing outdated infrastructure.”

The Nationwide Audit Workplace has launched a ‘worth for cash’ inquiry into Boris Johnson’s manifesto pledge to construct 40 new hospitals by 2030, together with “whether or not all initiatives actually meet the classification of ‘new hospitals’”.

This text was up to date on 15 August 2022 to incorporate details about the NAO inquiry.

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