Reinforced autoclaved aerated concreted (RAAC) was reported in 18 more hospitals on 19 October, bringing the number up to 42. This building material caused the government to shut schools at the last minute at the start of September due to concerns of building collapses (see ‘Crumbling education system no longer a metaphor’). A worker reports on the impact of RAAC in a hospital they work in.
It’s not an unusual sight to walk onto a hospital ward and see staff running about. It is however unusual to see them dodging scaffolding while they do it. This, however, is the reality of a hospital I work at that, when built, was largely constructed out of RAAC. It is one of the oldest hospitals constructed with RAAC and is littered with design issues that only worsen the risks RAAC now poses; one of the largest flat roofs in the NHS, at the top of the tables in the number of RAAC floors, defects throughout elements of its building (to the extent that design features at this hospital were dropped completely) and over 200 roof leaks a year.
Even before RAAC became national news it was a major issue at this hospital for a number of years, leading to chaos and confusion for staff and patients. Wards move around the hospital with almost no warning as RAAC issues develop the need for urgent attention, or else the ceiling may come down on convalescing patients.
Beds have been lost for days to make sure the ceiling is propped up. Some departments vanish completely for periods of time to the extent there have been occasions patients requiring scans and other treatment have to go on a two-hour round trip to a hospital in another city rather than the two-minute walk down a corridor.
This hospital has been an accident waiting to happen since at least 2021, with RAAC issues being so widespread that odd repairs are not enough. But according to MPs, more substantive work would be ‘difficult.’ However, faced with growing public scrutiny of the issue of RAAC, the money has been found for a newly rebuilt hospital. In a little under ten years if we’re lucky.
We know if the Tories get their way the money for this new hospital will come from the working class paying, in cuts and other much needed funding for hospitals getting stripped away. Rather than money being ripped out of the NHS, by austerity or things like Private Finance Initiatives, the money to fix these problems should come from the pockets of the super-rich.
Until then chaos and disruption, at a time when you need a little as possible of either, will be the order of the day at my hospital.