The timeline by which crumbling concrete is set to be eradicated from NHS hospitals and the amount of funding allocated to remove it do not ‘stack up’, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said in an evidence hearing today.
Currently, seven NHS hospitals with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) need to be fully replaced, all of which are included under the Government’s New Hospitals Programme (NHP).
However, at a PAC hearing today on the status of the NHP, Labour MP Dame Meg Hillier highlighted the discrepancy between the soon-to-expire funding allocated to maintain the hospitals and anticipated construction start date.
Dame Hillier said: ‘In terms of the individual RAAC hospitals themselves, they can be at an average of £1bn to fix and there is not that much money in the New Hospitals Programme Budget, and [the seven RAAC hospitals] are in cohort four. But you’re supposed to be rebuilding those by 2030.
‘It just seems like the timeline and the money don’t stack up.’
The Government had previously allocated £685m to cover remediation at five of the RAAC hospitals, but the PAC highlighted this funding was due to expire at the end of 2025, well before construction begins on cohort four.
Cohort four – originally due to be constructed before 2030 – will now be completed ‘past 2030’, a DHSC guidance document updated in July 2023 previously stated.
Despite this, a DHSC spokesperson has this week maintained that RAAC will be eliminated from the NHS’ estate by 2035, with the ‘seven most affected hospitals’ replaced by 2030 through the NHP.
Airedale, Queen Elizabeth King’s Lynn, Hinchingbrooke, Mid Cheshire Leighton, Frimley Park, West Suffolk Hospital, James Paget Hospital are all included among the seven hospitals with buildings due to be replaced.
In response to Dame Hillier’s comments, the DHSC’s permanent secretary Shona Dunn said: ‘Initial estimates of the full replacement of the RAAC hospitals have numbers that have been discussed of the scale that you talk about, but we have to go through the process of putting together the business cases for those applying hospital 2.0 and so on… that commitment is there and is firm and that will make a substantial impact on the RAAC position as will the mitigation programme and the and the wider operational capital.’
Hospital 2.0 refers to the standardised design to be used for hospitals developed in cohort three and beyond in the NHP.