Thirty-four hospital buildings in England have concrete roofs so unstable they could collapse

Thirty-four hospital buildings in England have concrete roofs so unstable they could collapse

Thirty-four hospital buildings in England have roofs made of concrete that are so unstable they could collapse at any time, ministers admit

  • 34 hospital buildings in 16 NHS Trusts in England are built with unsafe concrete
  • The RAAC material was popular in the 60s and 70s but has a 30-year lifespan 
  • Health Minister Maria Caulfield said £110million earmarked for safety measures  
  • Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn has a roof like a ‘chocolate Aero bar’

Patients in England could be at risk from concrete roofs at 34 hospital buildings which are so unstable, they may collapse.

The news has led campaigners to renew calls on the government to take urgent action to protect NHS workers and vulnerable patients from unsafe buildings.

Health minister Maria Caulfield revealed the figure in a written response to a question raised by Liberal Democrat deputy leader Daisy Cooper, The Guardian reports.

Ms Caulfield said a NHS survey found 34 structures at 16 different NHS trusts were built with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RACC), which one hospital boss described as akin to a ‘chocolate Aero bar’.

Although RACC was widely used in the 60s, 70s and 80s, its 30-year lifespan means existing building are now hazardous and a ‘significant safety risk’, according to NHS England’s director of estates.

Health minister Maria Caulfield said a NHS survey found 34 structures at 16 different NHS trusts were built with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RACC), which one hospital boss described as akin to a ‘chocolate Aero bar’

Sir Ed Davey, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: ‘It’s simply unthinkable that patients are being treated in buildings that could be at risk of collapse.

‘From record waiting lists to crumbling hospital roofs, patients are paying the price of years of Conservative neglect of our NHS.’

Previously, it was thought that just 13 NHS Trusts still had buildings made using RAAC, but Caulfield’s admission has revealed the true figure to be higher.

Ms Caulfield stated to Ms Cooper that £110m had been set aside by the Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) to tackle the immediate risk of RAAC buildings, and that NHS Trusts would receive an additional £575m.

Her letter did not name the 16 Trusts or specify whether the 34 structures are hospital buildings in which patients are cared for.

But past news reports have identified Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire, Frimley Park in Surrey, and Airedale Hospital in Keighley, West Yorkshire, as among those with RAAC structures.

Last year, Hinchingbrooke Hospital barred patients weighing over 19 stone from two operating theatres amid fears it would place pressure on its ceilings.

Past news reports have identified Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire (pictured) as among those with RAAC structures

Past news reports have identified Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire (pictured) as among those with RAAC structures

The Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey has also been identified as having a RAAC roof in past news reports

The Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey has also been identified as having a RAAC roof in past news reports

One of the most concerning cases is Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, the ceiling of which is reportedly being held up by 1,500 steel props in 56 different areas.

The Trust’s chief executive Caroline Shaw told The Times last month: ‘The roof is like is like a chocolate Aero bar. 

‘There are bubbles in the concrete and we’re checking it daily to make sure those bubbles don’t break, and the roof doesn’t come down. It really is like a ticking time bomb.

‘We quite often have to move services around to enable us to prop the roof and I think for patients who are lying in bed and seeing these props it does feel quite unsafe and we do have patients complain about this.’

A team of 12 is said to be routinely checking the building’s safety 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Trust has now submitted a £862million bid to demolish the site and rebuild it.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn also happens to be in the constituency of Tory leadership contender Liz Truss.

One of the most concerning cases is Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn (pictured) the ceiling of which is reportedly being held up by 1,500 steel props in 56 different areas

One of the most concerning cases is Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn (pictured) the ceiling of which is reportedly being held up by 1,500 steel props in 56 different areas

In a televised debate last month, Truss admitted: ‘I’m afraid some of our hospitals are falling apart. The Queen Elizabeth in King’s Lynn, near me – bits of the hospital are being held up by stilts. That is not good enough for patients across the NHS.’

But Truss’s comments were criticised by Mr Davey, who pointed out Truss had been a member of successive Governments which resisted calls to increase NHS capital expenditure.

A Department for Health and Social Care (DHSC) spokesman said: ‘We are taking action to improve health infrastructure across the country, and have provided more than £4 billion for Trusts to support local priorities including to maintain and refurbish their premises, and have set aside over £685 million to directly address issues relating to the use of RAAC in the NHS estate.

‘By 2030 we will have 40 new hospitals which will provide state-of-the-art facilities to ensure world-class provision of healthcare for NHS patients and staff by replacing outdated infrastructure.’ 

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Stewart Carr

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