Reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) has been found in blocks at the University Hospital of North Tees.

The concrete has been found in office and residential blocks occupied by staff at the Stockton hospital. No RAAC has been found in the main hospital building where patients are treated, the NHS trust covering the hospital has said.

The trust says seven blocks are affected – five for offices, two for staff accommodation. Staff have been kept informed and some have been moved to alternative accommodation while works are carried out, but ageing roofs may have to be replaced in the future.

Darlington and Stockton Times: University Hospital of North Tees, Stockton

RAAC, a lightweight form of concrete often used in public buildings between the 1950s and 1990s, has been found in more than 100 schools forcing them to fully or partially close. The revelation about the North Tees hospital came after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak was quizzed on radio about its poor state, and continued efforts to push for a new hospital in the town.

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The state of the University Hospital of North Tees is a major concern – with the site labelled “not fit for purpose” and the costs of maintaining its buildings expected to soar to £300m in the eight years’ useful life they have left – discussed in both NHS trust and Stockton Council meetings. The ageing estate, which will endanger patients, staff and public if not maintained, is a “red risk” for the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, which also aims to save £20.7m this year.

The trust is developing an outline business case and exploring alternative funding opportunities after a £380m bid to the new hospital programme was rejected by the government in May this year, to the dismay and consternation of local MPs. Lobbying the government for a new hospital in the town received cross-party support in a council meeting last week.

The hospital came up in an interview with the Prime Minister on BBC Radio Tees last week as presenter Amy Oakden said listeners had complained of leaking roofs and freezing pipes in the maternity ward. She said RAAC was in hospitals as well as schools.

Mr Sunak said £700m had been put aside to tackle the issue in hospitals. But he would not commit to rebuilding the University Hospital of North Tees.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Rishi Sunak

The Prime Minister said: “The hospitals that have got the most serious RAAC problems have been moved into the rebuilding programme as you would expect us to prioritise those ones.”

Asked about the situation regarding RAAC at the hospital, a spokesperson for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust said: “Reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete (RAAC) has been identified within our residential blocks at the University Hospital of North Tees. These blocks house office staff and residential accommodation only.

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“Following IStructE guidance, we have carried out work to ensure our outbuildings are safe and we continue to monitor and inspect the buildings in line with national guidance. Our main hospital building where patients are cared for has not had any RAAC identified within the building structure.

“There is an ongoing programme of work to make sure the trust’s whole estate is fit to provide first class care to our population – the trust is committed to doing all it can in the future to ensure this estate is fit for modern health for many decades to come.”

The trust says it immediately brought in structural engineers to draw up a solution and employed a contractor to carry out work. The works to one block have been completed and work is being done on another block with completion due in late October, and costs will be finalised later, after final structural reports and a review of the options.

An engineer is carrying out more surveys and there will be a yearly inspection of each roof to guard against defects. The trust is getting costs for another recommendation, to replace all ageing roofs to prevent water damage.

A trust report from July, before the revelations about RAAC in schools and other buildings, stated: “Following a recent water leak, it has been identified that there is reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) in two of the residences (Farndale House and Everley House) at the North Tees site and this is being addressed by backlog maintenance capital.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “The NHS has a mitigation plan in place for hospital buildings with confirmed RAAC, backed with significant additional funding of £698 million from 2021 to 2025, for trusts to put in place necessary remediation and failsafe measures. We remain committed to eradicating RAAC from the NHS estate entirely by 2035.”

Seven hospitals will be fully replaced by 2030 as part of the government’s £20bn New Hospital Programme, in West Yorkshire, Norfolk, Cambridgeshire, Cheshire, Surrey and Suffolk. The government said the NHS asked it to prioritise rebuilding these hospitals because of the risks to patients and staff. Eight more schemes have been delayed past 2030.

This will become part of a rolling programme of investment in new hospitals. More than 40 new hospitals have been promised to meet a manifesto commitment, with upgrades to NHS facilities across the country, and trusts will later be able to submit their cases.

However it appears Stockton will have to wait as the government is not inviting other schemes to join the programme at the moment. The department says: “Trusts will be made aware when and how further projects will be invited to join the new, rolling programme.”

The DHSC says the situation is different to schools as the NHS has been surveying sites and carrying out RAAC mitigation work since 2019, and much work can be carried out with “relatively minimal service disruption”.

The University Hospital of North Tees was not selected to be part of the New Hospital Programme in May despite the huge repair backlog and a £380m bid to replace it. Stockton North MP Alex Cunningham said he was “very angry indeed” at the outcome while Stockton South MP Matt Vickers said he was “gutted”.