Schools announcement raises concerns for hospital RAAC

Schools across the country have been advised that any space or area with confirmed RAAC should no longer be open without mitigations in place.

A statement from the Department of Education said: "While building maintenance is the duty of councils and academy trusts, new RAAC cases have reduced the Department for Education’s confidence that school and college buildings with confirmed RAAC should remain open without mitigations in place.

"As a result, following careful analysis of new cases, the department is taking the precautionary and proactive step to change its approach to RAAC in education settings, including schools. This decision has been made with an abundance of caution and to prioritise safety of children, pupils, and staff ahead of the start of the new term."

The government has been aware of RAAC in public sector buildings since 1994, with guidance published for schools in 2018.

Education secretary, Gillian Keegan, said: "Nothing is more important than making sure children and staff are safe in schools and colleges, which is why we are acting on new evidence about RAAC now, ahead of the start of term.

"We must take a cautious approach because that is the right thing to do for both pupils and staff.

"The plan we have set out will minimise the impact on pupil learning and provide schools with the right funding and support they need to put mitigations in place to deal with RAAC."

Back in May, the Department of Health and Social Care has announced that five hospitals that were built using mostly reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) will be rebuilt by 2030 as part of the New Hospital Programme.

According to the Department, Patients and staff will benefit from safe, state-of-the-art new facilities and improved care.

The government has also announced that over £20 billion is expected to be spent on new hospital infrastructure.

The hospitals included are Airedale in West Yorkshire, Queen Elizabeth King’s Lynn in Norfolk, Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire, Mid Cheshire Leighton in Cheshire and Frimley Park in Surrey, all of which have significant amounts of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC).

RAAC is a lightweight type of concrete used to construct parts of the NHS estate in the past. However, at the end of its limited lifespan, it deteriorates significantly.

West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds and James Paget Hospital in Norfolk, which are also affected, have already been announced in the New Hospital Programme and these are set to be prioritised.

At the time, health and social care secretary Steve Barclay said: “These five hospitals are in pressing need of repair and are being prioritised so patients and staff can benefit from major new hospital buildings, equipped with the latest technology.

“On top of this I’m strengthening our New Hospital Programme by today confirming that it is expected to represent more than £20 billion of new investment in hospital infrastructure.

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of our fantastic NHS, this extra investment will ensure it can care for patients for decades to come and help cut waiting lists so they get the treatment they need quicker.”

At the time, Barclay reiterated the government’s commitment to eradicating RAAC from the NHS estate. He stated that Seven hospitals in England were constructed, either wholly or in major part, with RAAC, and an independent assessment shows they are not safe to operate beyond 2030.



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