Seven hospitals have been declared “structurally unsound” after being made with “aero bar” concrete – with 156 schools also affected in England so far.
Over the last year, there have been warnings issued about the risk of crumbling ceilings and the consequences it could have after reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) was used by builders from the 1960s to the 1980s.
RAAC was also used to build numerous schools across the country – with 52 deemed at critical risk of collapse leading to closures.
In total, the government says 24 NHS buildings contain RAAC planks but just seven of them have been prioritised for urgent rebuilding work.
The material is said to be structurally weaker than traditional concrete and has been likened to a “chocolate Aero bar” with an expected lifespan of just 30 years.
The West Suffolk Hospital has already been forced to install 27 metal supports under RAAC planks to make it safe.
A report by the National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed 41 hospitals contain the material, including seven with RAAC “present throughout”.
The report reads: “In recent years, the NHS has become aware of a serious issue with its buildings constructed from lightweight RAAC. A number of hospitals still in operation today contain RAAC, including seven which have the material throughout.
“Since the late 1990s it has become increasingly apparent that the material can become structurally unsound.”
The government has pledged to remove RAAC from the NHS estate by 2035, and has allocated £685 million to mitigate safety risks in the buildings over the next few years.
The rebuilding of these hospitals has been prioritised as part of the government’s ambition to build 40 new hospitals by 2030.
The report says, as a result of this prioritisation, eight hospitals that were originally due to be constructed towards the end of the decade will now be completed after the deadline.
A RAAC beam that collapsed over the summer prompted the government to warn that school buildings known to contain this concrete will have to close or be made safe.