Crumbling concrete fears at host of new hospitals

Posted: 7th September 2023

A host of more hospitals have come forward to report they may have been built using reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

The government said it had ordered urgent surveys of tens of the sites and was working quickly to establish the scale of the problem.

The NHS had already identified RAAC at 41 buildings in England – including seven hospitals with RAAC throughout.

Steps have been taken for sometime to manage the risk of collapse.

But the latest hospitals came forward after the government wrote to NHS trusts following news some schools were having to close because of concerns over the lightweight concrete, which has bubbles inside like “a chocolate Aero bar”.

Used in roofs, floors and walls between the 1960s and 1980s, RAAC has a limited lifespan.

‘Non-patient areas’

Chief financial officer Julian Kelly told the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) had been working with the NHS on RAAC since 2019.

He refused to say how many new sites were now having to be checked but it was in the “tens” not hundreds and in some it was in non-patient areas such as boiler rooms and offices.

“We are working quickly to do full surveys,” he said.

And he reiterated the government’s commitment to eradicate RAAC from the NHS estate by 2035.

But MPs questioned whether this was quick enough, pointing out NHS trusts were having to spend huge sums propping up ceilings, closing wards and limiting patient numbers in buildings where RAAC had been found.

Meg Hillier, who chairs the committee, said dealing with RAAC was requiring “eye-watering” measures costing millions of pounds.

Asked whether hospitals were safe, DHSC second permanent secretary Shona Dunn said you could never be 100% sure but the NHS was following official Institution of Structural Engineers guidance.

The hospitals with RAAC throughout could not be rebuilt before 2030, however.

“It’s not a generous timescale,” Ms Dunn added.

Source: Crumbling concrete fears at host of new hospitals – BBC News

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