Hospitals in England have been warned they must be ready to evacuate if buildings containing reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) begin to show signs of structural failure.
Raac is a lightweight building material used from the 1950s up to the mid-1990s, but is now assessed to be at risk of collapse.
More than 100 schools in England have already been told to fully or partially close because they are fitted with Racc.
Now the focus has turned to other buildings, including hospitals, as concerns continue to grow around where there may be more Raac present.
NHS bosses have told hospitals across England to be ready to evacuate staff and patients if buildings containing concrete start to show signs of structural failures. pic.twitter.com/Koo42yvPEr
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) September 6, 2023
Hospitals told to be ready to evacuate if buildings found to contain dangerous Raac
A letter sent from NHS England to trust chiefs said 27 sites had previously been identified as having Raac, with three of them having already eradicated the concrete.
The letter, from NHS England’s chief commercial officer Jacqui Rock and national director for emergency planning and incident response Dr Mike Prentice, called for trusts to make sure work to identify and manage Raac had been properly carried out.
NHS chiefs have been told to have procedures to cope with the failure of Raac, including for the “decant of patients and services”.
Managers in hospitals where Raac has already been confirmed have been told to ensure that management plans to deal with it are “sufficiently robust and being implemented”.
But the letter added that plans for Raac collapses also needed to be kept up to date.
NHS England said: “Effective management of Raac significantly reduces associated risks; but does not completely eliminate them.
“Planning for Raac failure, including the decant of patients and services where Raac panels are present in clinical areas, is, therefore, part of business continuity planning for trusts where Raac is known to be present, or is potentially present."
Evacuation plans already tested in England
A regional evacuation plan was created and tested in the East of England, with lessons from it shared across the country.
NHS England, in the letter said: “We would recommend that all boards ensure that they are familiar with the learning from this exercise and that they are being incorporated into standard business continuity planning as a matter of good practice.
“This exercise is, however, essential for those organisations with known Raac, and should be done as a matter of priority if it has not already been completed.”
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The NHS has been surveying sites and carrying out Raac mitigation work since 2019.
Almost £700 million has been allocated for this work between 2021 and 2025, enabling trusts to put in place remediation and failsafe measures, with a goal of eradicating Raac from NHS buildings entirely by 2035.
Hospitals to be rebuilt due to Raac concerns
Seven hospitals in England are set to be rebuilt due to Raac concerns.
These hospitals are:
Queen Elizabeth King’s Lynn
Mid Cheshire Leighton
West Suffolk Hospital
James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth
One hospital in Pembrokeshire in Wales declared a "major incident" and had patients moved last week due to Raac concerns, while five regional theatres in England have also closed with the same issue according to Good Morning Britain.