£1.26bn Hospital Revamp To Remove Hazardous Concrete

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Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust has called on the government for £1.26 billion in funding to create a new net-zero facility and to mitigate the risks posed by reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) used in the current hospital building roof, which has been deemed unsafe by NHS England and Improvement (NHSE&I).

According to BBC News, the Trust the current roof is being ‘actively managed’ to prevent further deterioration and represents ‘potential health and safety risks to patients, staff and visitors as well as considerable maintenance costs’.

RAAC is a form of lightweight concrete that was developed to speed up the manufacturing process of precast concrete units. It was used for the roof of the hospital building when it was constructed 50 years ago.

However, the collapse of a roof on a school in Essex in 2019 and several other reports of structures becoming unsafe from the use of RAAC has led to it being associated with increased safety risks.

The risks posed by RAAC have been compared to a similar problem with high alumina concrete in the 1960s, as reported by New Civil Engineer last August.

The Trust’s call for funding for the hospital follows a directive from the NHSE&I for the removal of all structures built with RAAC from the NHS estate by 2035.

With RAAC planks used in Frimley Park Hospital’s roof, the Trust has requested £1.26 billion from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), so that a new hospital can be constructed within the next decade.

Chief executive of Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust, Neil Dardis, said in a report to the board of directors: “We are also developing plans for a phased redevelopment across the site over the next decade as an alternative to a complete rebuild.”

Dardis’ report also highlighted the risks of RAAC, sating that the planks will deteriorate over time, and outlined ways that the deterioration could worsen, including softening the roof RAAC planks from pooling water in gutters and leaking roofs, damage caused from excess weight on the roof due to the installation of heavy plant machinery, and heavy snowfall or ice buildup.

There have already been measures put in place by the Trust to protect the structure, such as roof covers to prevent RAAC deterioration due to water. Meanwhile, repair, reinforcement, and propping of the RAAC planks have been enacted in areas of high risk.

RAAC was also used for the construction of other buildings on site that will also be rebuilt.

“Contractors are currently on-site from this month to complete the demolition of the former accommodation and office blocks at the back of Frimley Park, which include RAAC structures,” Dardis said.

Apart from improved safety, the Trust says the new hospital will offer patients a better experience, through improved facilities and more operating theatres, and will be more energy efficient.

The Trust is currently waiting for the outcome of the bid for funding.

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