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'Urgent need' to replace deteriorating Airedale hospital before 2030

Tuesday, 20 December 2022 16:18

By Thomas Barrett, Local Democracy Reporter

An NHS report has laid bare the structural problems at Airedale General Hospital and says there is an "urgent need" to build a replacement hospital before 2030.

The hospital in Steeton opened in 1970 and serves 220,000 people living in the Bradford and Craven districts.

But the majority of the hospital’s walls, floors and roofs were built with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) which is weaker than normal concrete and initially had a life span of 30 years — leading to fears about collapse.

A structural safety report written by Fran Hewitt, senior programme manager at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust, was presented to North Yorkshire County Council’s scrutiny of health committee on Friday last week.

It notes that following an investigation, 5,400 of the 20,000 load-bearing RAAC planks have been logged with at least one defect.

Approximately 500 of these are “severely damaged” and are being supported with structural steel, timber or acrow-props.

Structural engineers also found several areas of the roof that required “urgent” structural support.

The report said RAAC is so endemic within the building that it is not “financially, structurally or operationally viable” to remove and replace it all.

A programme of repairs is underway at the hospital that involves installing steel frames reduce the risk of collapse, but the report says this is “not a long-term solution” and is having an impact on services.

The report said one inpatient bed was lost for over 200 days because a prop to support the roof had to be positioned in its place.

Last year, the Act as One health and care partnership, which covers Bradford and Craven, bid for government funding to rebuild the hospital but it is still awaiting a response.

The deteriorating condition of Airedale was raised by Independent councillor for Skipton West & West Craven, Andy Solloway, at the Skipton & Ripon area committee last week.

Cllr Solloway asked Conservative MP for Skipton Julian Smith to lobby ministers for a new hospital to be built.

Mr Smith said a total rebuild “looks difficult” but that repairs were ongoing and he would be pushing to ensure that the building is safe for patients and staff.

Cllr Solloway told the Local Democracy Reporting Service after the meeting that the structural report painted an “absolutely desperate” picture for the hospital. He said: “Our local hospital, which is not only very high performing and has a huge high regard from Craven residents and well beyond, is falling down, no two words about it. The structural survey is adamant that it needs a replacement hospital by 2030 if not before. I know our MP said that there is a programme of remedial work going on but this is not enough and is costing a small fortune as it is."

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