Crumbling concrete puts 2 million hospital patients at risk: UK
Figures from the Liberal Democrats indicate that seven hospitals, with a workforce of 43,000 NHS staff, are impacted by RAAC, as per The Telegraph.
Data have revealed that approximately two million patients and 43,000 NHS staff are facing risks due to deteriorating concrete conditions in hospital buildings, The Telegraph reported.
According to information from the Liberal Democrats, seven hospitals, including four with widespread issues of crumbling reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), cater to a total of 1.94 million people in various communities. Among the hospital staff are 5,000 doctors, 11,500 nurses, and midwives, all working in environments that NHS leaders labeled as posing "a major risk to patient and staff safety."
The situation became more urgent when Julian Kelly, the NHS chief financial officer, informed the public accounts committee that tens of additional hospital sites were affected by RAAC, surpassing the initial estimate. He mentioned ongoing efforts to conduct comprehensive surveys, clarifying that not all cases involved patient areas.
In response, the NHS contacted hospital administrators, urging them to identify all RAAC presence on their sites and carry out thorough assessments. A prior report from the National Audit Office had already identified 41 hospital buildings in England with lightweight concrete concerns.
Among the repercussions Kelly highlighted are hospitals having to close units, relocate patients to other spaces, and experience theater losses due to concrete issues.
Amanda Pritchard, the chief executive of NHS England, expressed that monitoring and managing RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) is a burdening task for local healthcare teams. She emphasized that even with enhanced monitoring, it cannot entirely eliminate the risks associated with RAAC. Hence, the eradication plan remains crucial.
As per the existing schedule, all RAAC in hospitals will be removed by 2035. Additionally, the seven hospitals where RAAC is widespread throughout their structures will undergo reconstruction by 2030.
Miriam Deakin, the director of policy and strategy at NHS Providers, expressed serious concern about the continuous closure of patient units and theaters due to deteriorating facilities and fire hazards. She noted that hospital leaders had consistently alerted authorities about the significant safety risks posed by RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) to patients, staff, and healthcare services. Deakin also suggested that additional cases of RAAC-related issues might still emerge.
A national scandal
Sir Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, has called for urgent funding to address the hospitals at risk of structural issues. He characterized the situation as a "national scandal" and emphasized that healthcare staff should not have to work in unsafe conditions under the threat of structural problems.
In response, a spokesperson from the Department of Health and Social Care dismissed the claims as "misleading".
It is worth noting that a YouGov poll revealed that two-thirds of the population believe that the government is managing the deteriorating concrete issue poorly, while a third deemed the handling "very poor". Among the 2,600 adults surveyed, only two percent believed the government was handling the crisis "very effectively".