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'We have got a handle on this' says West Suffolk Hospital as it reveals steps to assess safety of 15,000 concrete planks across building

West Suffolk Hospital could be riddled with structural defects, it was revealed today.

The ageing building is constructed using 15,000 reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) planks, which were subject to a nationwide safety alert in May.

Stephen Dunn, West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust chief executive, said patient and staff safety was a priority so it was going above and beyond the recommendations in the SCOSS (Standing Committee of Structural Safety) alert to manage the situation.

West Suffolk Hospital (21456524)
West Suffolk Hospital (21456524)

"We have taken this incredibly seriously. We were doing the majority of the actions in the alert and we have put in place a programme of radar inspection. We are mapping all of the concrete planks in the hospital and photographing them," said Dr Dunn.

"Safety is paramount. We are keen to ensure the building is safe.

"If through the programme of inspections it shows we need to take action, we will."

stephen dunn, chief exec west suffolk hospital, in hospial's dementia memory walk (21456577)
stephen dunn, chief exec west suffolk hospital, in hospial's dementia memory walk (21456577)

He said patients and staff might notice the additional inspections under way. Since May, the trust's priority has been to inspect and map areas of the hospital which are open 24-7. That programme is currently 80 per cent complete, with inspections expected to be complete by the end of the year. The trust will then move on to inspect others areas of the building.

As the trust understands, 400,000 of such RAAC planks were constructed nationwide and one has since failed – resulting in a school roof collapsing in 2018.

The planks are used across the entire West Suffolk Hospital building, with 10,000 in its roof and 5,000 in the walls.

Dr Dunn added: "We have got a handle on this."

NHS England said six other hospitals were constructed using the same planks, with Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn; James Paget, in Gorleston; Hinchingbrooke, in Huntingdon; Frimley Park, in Surrey; Airedale, in West Yorkshire; and Leighton, in Cheshire, also affected.

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