Health boards find potentially fatal concrete in buildings, including hospitals 

By Bill Heaney

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP has today urged the Scottish Government to support health boards to inspecting and fix buildings in which concrete responsible for the collapse of a school roof have been found.

Research by his party has found that at least four health boards have discovered the potentially fatal building material.

It is believed that the local health board for West Dunbartonshire, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde,  have identified 34 buildings in which “autoclaved concrete” might have been used and need further inspection.

Further checks have still to be completed by health boards to assess its presence, Mr Cole-Hamilton, pictured left, added.

Reinforced autoclaved concrete (RAAC) is a light and bubbly form of precast concrete, frequently used in public sector buildings in the UK from the mid-1950s to the mid-1990s.

On 22 February, NHS Scotland issued a safety action notice that warned RAAC planks in roofs, walls and flooring are at “risk of catastrophic structural failure”, adding that this could occur “suddenly” and “without warning” amid limited visible exposure of panels to assess their condition.

The warning states that “the level of unknown risk this issue poses is unacceptable and needs an immediate response”.

Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information requests – the government device for keeping things quiet – now reveal that:   

  • NHS Ayrshire and Arran, NHS Grampian, NHS Lanarkshire and NHS Tayside have all uncovered the use of RAAC.
  • RAAC has been found at University Hospital Crosshouse and a building at Ninewells hospital.
  • There is currently one instance of RAAC in NHS Grampian and the health board has still to conduct 77 checks.
  • There is currently one instance of RAAC in NHS Lanarkshire at Biggar Health Centre and there are still 19 checks pending.
  • NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have identified 34 buildings which might have RAAC and need further inspection.

Scottish Liberal Democrats previously revealed that RAAC is being used in at least 37 Scottish schools.  

Mr Cole-Hamilton said:  “It is worrying that patients are being treated in buildings with roofs that could collapse at any moment.  The wording of the urgent safety notice could hardly be more serious.

“Concerns about the use of this concrete have been in the public domain for years, yet many health boards still don’t know if this is what is holding their roofs up.

“Patients and staff need to know exactly which buildings have this concrete in place. The material has been likened to chocolate aero because of the bubbles that could break and collapse at any point.

“The Scottish Government must urgently ensure that every health board building is inspected and take swift action to remove the concrete if it is deemed unsafe.”

A spreadsheet of freedom of information responses can be found here

NHS National Services Scotland’s Safety Action Notice, issued on 22 February 2023, can be found here.

More information on the collapse of the school roof in Kent can be found here

The Ministry of Defence’s Defence Infrastructure Organisation has issued a warning notice stating that RAAC has low compressive strength, around 10-20% of traditional concrete, as well as being at risk of water damage. The warning can be found here.

RAAC plants have been estimated to have a lifespan of around 30 years, according to the Standing Committee on Structural Safety, as reported here

A risk assessment for Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Cambridgeshire found that the RAAC panels in the hospital are “likely” to collapse and that the impact would be “catastrophic.”

Previous research by Scottish Liberal Democrats on the use of RAAC in schools was reported here

Separate figures uncovered by the Liberal Democrats have revealed that last year in England there were two million patient admissions at hospitals with crumbling roofs at risk of collapse. 

The Scottish Liberal Democrat freedom of information request asked all health boards:  

  1. How many checks and surveys of hospitals and other estates run by the Board have been carried out since the NHS Scotland notice was sent?  
  2. How many instances of RAAC have been found in hospitals or other estates managed by the Board.  
  3. How many buildings still need to be checked for RAAC?  
  4. What action the Board is taking to remove any RAAC identified and how long does it estimate that any action will take?  

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