Hospitals with hazardous concrete to be rebuilt as part of £20bn spend

The reconstruction of five hospitals at risk of collapse is to be prioritised as part of a £20bn investment in hospital infrastructure.

The hospitals – Airedale in West Yorkshire, Queen Elizabeth King’s Lynn in Norfolk, Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire, Mid Cheshire Leighton in Cheshire and Frimley Park in Surrey – all contain significant amounts of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

RAAC is a lightweight type of concrete that was used in roof, floor, cladding and wall construction across the UK from the mid-1950s to the mid-1980s.

Safety concerns have intensified in recent years over the use of the material in public buildings, with warnings from the Office of Government Property last year that it was now “life-expired and liable to collapse”.

No decision has yet been made on which firms will carry out the work under the government’s New Hospital Programme, with contractors unlikely to be announced before the next spending review.

However, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said that now the risks had come to light, rebuilding the hospitals swiftly is critical, with the first works expected to begin in 2025.

“These five hospitals are in pressing need of repair and are being prioritised so patients and staff can benefit from major new hospital buildings, equipped with the latest technology,” he said.

He also confirmed that the programme was expected to represent more than £20bn of new investment in hospital infrastructure.

Two hospitals thought to be most at risk from the presence of RAAC – West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and James Paget Hospital in Norfolk – have already been announced as part of the programme.

However, the prioritisation of the other five, together with the rising cost of construction materials, has meant eight schemes due to have been completed towards the end of the decade will not now be built until after 2030, the Department of Health and Social Care said.

These are Royal Berkshire, North Devon, East Sussex, Charing Cross and Hammersmith, St Mary’s, Hampshire, Queen’s Medical Centre and Nottingham City Hospital, and Royal Preston Hospital and Royal Lancaster Infirmary.

The department said the situation would be kept under review and everything possible done to accelerate the completion of the affected hospitals.

“We remain committed to all schemes that have already been announced as part of the New Hospital Programme and will ensure they all have the funding originally promised and we are on track to deliver the manifesto commitment to build 40 new hospitals in England by 2030,” it said.

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