Ministers have admitted that thirty-four hospital buildings in England have roofs made of concrete so unstable that they could fall at any time.
The revelation has led to renewed fears that ceilings in affected hospitals could suddenly collapse, injuring staff and patients, and calls for urgent action to address the problem.
Maria Caulfield, the Secretary of Health, made this disclosure at written answer to a parliamentary question posed by Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman, Daisy Cooper.
Caulfield said NHS surveys found 34 buildings in 16 different health trusts were contained. Aerated Reinforced Aerated Concrete (RAAC), which one hospital administrator likened to an “airy chocolate bar.” The RAAC was used extensively in hospital and school building in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, but it is 30 years old and now causing serious problems.
In 2020 Simon Corbin, NHS The property manager for England declared that RAAC panels pose a “significant safety risk” because their age means they can fall off without warning.
Caulfield’s acceptance means that more NHS facilities are at risk from RAAC than previously thought. Until now it was believed 13 confidence She was affected, but the minister set that number at 16. Her answer did not specify the 16 institutions involved or indicate how many “34 buildings with RAAC panels” were hospitals where patients were treated.
However, the identities of some of the hospitals involved are already known, including Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire, Frimley Park in Surrey, and Airedale in Yorkshire.
“It is simply unreasonable for patients to be treated in buildings that may be at risk of collapsing,” said Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. “From standard waiting lists to crumbling hospital rooftops, patients are paying the price for years of conservative neglect of our NHS service.”
Many hospitals now have to use steel props to stabilize ceilings to reduce the risk of this happening. One – Queen Elizabeth on Kings Lynn, near the contender for Conservative leadership in the southwestern Norfolk constituency – Liz Truss – is currently posting at least 1,500 supports.
in televised leadership discussion With rival Rishi Sunak last month, Truss expressed concern about the large number of hospitals in England with major structural problems. I’m afraid some of our hospitals are collapsing. Queen Elizabeth at King’s Lynn, near me – Parts of the hospital are suspended by stilts. This is not good enough for patients across the NHS.
“The ceiling is like an airy chocolate bar. There are bubbles in the concrete and we check them every day to make sure those bubbles don’t break and the ceiling doesn’t come off. It really is like a ticking time bomb,” Carolyn Shaw, the hospital’s chief executive, told the Sunday Times last month.
“For patients who are in bed and see these props, they feel completely insecure,” she added. The hospital had to evacuate patients from its intensive care unit last year and take some to hospitals 40 miles away amid fears the roof might collapse.
But Davey noted that Truss has been a member of recent governments that have resisted pleas by NHS leaders for a significant increase in the service’s capital budget to enable it to overhaul its aging, and sometimes dangerously inadequate, properties.
“It is disgraceful for Liz Truss to publicly suggest that her local constituency hospital was outfitted with these roofs, despite sitting in the Cabinet and being a prominent member of successive Conservative governments. This government’s failed record of record waiting times and hospital collapse is also, he said. record its failure.
Last year, a whistleblower was exposed at West Suffolk Hospital, which also has RAAC panels. BBC It has commissioned a law firm to assess the risks of facing corporate manslaughter charges if the sudden roof collapse proves fatal.
Hinchingbrooke last year banned patients weighing more than 19 stone from undergoing surgery in two of its operating rooms if it puts too much pressure on the floor.
“We want to see the health minister at our local hospital this week to see for himself and finally take urgent action,” said Pippa Hillings, member of Leap Diem Council in Cambridgeshire.
In her response, Caulfield told Cooper that the Ministry of health The Social Care (DHSC) has set aside £110m for “immediate risk mitigation” and trusts will receive an additional £575m to help. However, many affected trusts say it would be cheaper to build a new hospital than rebuild a hospital filled with RAAC.
A DHSC spokesperson said: “We are taking action to improve health infrastructure across the country and have provided more than £4 billion to trust funds to support local priorities – including the maintenance and renovation of their buildings – and have committed over £685 million to directly address the issues. relating to the use of the RAAC in NHS ownership.
“By 2030, we will have 40 new hospitals that will provide state-of-the-art facilities to ensure world-class healthcare for NHS patients and staff by replacing aging infrastructure.”