Rishi Sunak Reportedly Rejected Plans to Rebuild Crumbling Hospitals, Raising Safety Concerns

Rishi Sunak blocked the rebuilding of five crumbling hospitals in 2020, leading to warnings of “catastrophic” risks to patient safety, according to The Guardian.

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LONDON (Bywire News) - Former Chancellor Rishi Sunak is under fire following allegations that he halted the reconstructing of five UK hospitals with crumbling concrete in 2020, reports the Guardian. These sites, identified with "catastrophic" patient safety risks, were only included in the new hospitals programme in May, leading to a crucial three-year delay in necessary renovation work.

From the seven rebuilding schemes proposed for hospitals by the Department for Health in the 2020 spending review, only two received approval from the Treasury during Sunak's tenure. The geographies of the delayed hospitals range from Surrey (Frimley Park hospital), to West Yorkshire (Airedale general hospital), Cambridgeshire (Hinchingbrooke hospital), Cheshire (Leighton hospital), and Norfolk (the Queen Elizabeth hospital).

This situation exacerbates the ongoing debate over raac (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete). Sunak and his education secretary, Gillian Keegan, have already faced criticism meanwhile handling the ensuing chaos related to failing concrete in English schools.

Last Tuesday, NHS England issued a warning to all 224 health trusts to prepare will be staff and patient evacuations if the at-risk buildings start to collapse.

An example is Frimley Park hospital's 2023-4 risk register, located in Michael Gove's constituency, which has identified widespread deterioration throughout its buildings. It cautioned against the potential of injury or death caused by a collapsing roof plank or a sudden complete failure due to a weakened concrete support beam.

Since the government's decision to neglect these five hospitals from the new building plan, the NHS has reported over 100 cases of estate or infrastructure failures resulting in cancelled or postponed clinical services. The backlog of repairs for these five hospitals, labelled as "high risk", amounted to £117 million, with less than a third of that sum being spent so far.

Despite awareness of the raac risks, the government only selected two hospitals for further review when the Department for Health proposed the inclusion of the seven hospitals to the Treasury in 2020.

Wes Streeting, the shadow health secretary, blamed Sunak and Barclay for the current NHS crisis. He accused them of endangering patients, staff, and taxpayers. On the other hand, the government claims that the funding was not denied but rather included in the broader new hospitals programme. Following an independent report by engineering consultants Mott MacDonald in 2022, the gravity of the raac issues only came to light.

(By Michael O'Sullivan)

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