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News archive - March 2019

Hospital buildings are putting health at risk

Hospital buildings are putting health at risk

The Government is being urged to conduct an audit of the healthcare estate after a BBC inquiry revealed that 90% of NHS trusts have hospital buildings that contain potentially-deadly asbestos.

Of the 211 trusts to respond to a BBC inquiry, 198 said they ran hospitals containing the material, which was once widely used in construction and can cause illnesses including respiratory conditions and cancer.

NHS Improvement said The Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 dictates how asbestos should be managed, risk assessed and removed, adding that it is ‘considered safe if it is undisturbed’.

Call for action

But the revelation has led to calls for action, particularly as the BBC probe also found that 352 claims were made against health trusts between January 2013 and December 2017 by people who had developed asbestos-related diseases in NHS buildings.

Jo Stevens MP, chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Occupational Health and Safety, is urging the Government to conduct an audit to ensure every trust knows the extent of asbestos on their premises and has a plan for dealing with it.

And Liz Darlison, founder of the charity, Mesothelioma UK, said it was launching a research project into the impact on hospital workers.

In the meantime, asbestos removal companies are advising trusts to identify problem areas and speak to specialists about the solutions.

Denis Morgan of Socotec told hdm: “The presence of asbestos in hospitals is not surprising given their age and should not in itself be a significant cause for concern.

“Greater emphasis should be given to the control measures that are in place at these hospitals and how the materials are being safely managed.”

Hospital buildings most at risk are those built or altered between the 1960s-1990s. But buildings can have M&E service installations or finishes that contain asbestos elements if they pre-dates the 1999 ban.

Plan ahead

Andrew Hogg, director at McBains, advises: “Hospitals should have a plan which identifies the location and type of any asbestos or assumed asbestos materials within a building.

“This should be shown to any workman who attends the building and if refurbishment works or alterations are proposed a survey should be undertaken identifying all possible asbestos materials in the location of the works and samples of material should be taken.”

He added: “Our immediate advice would be for estates managers to review their plans, check how old the original management plan is and whether any areas were excluded from the survey.

“If in doubt, new management surveys should be instructed. They should also check that regular inspections are being undertaken and recorded.”


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