Nine out of 10 NHS trusts ‘have hospitals containing asbestos’

About 90% of NHS trusts have said that asbestos is present in their hospital buildings, according to a BBC News report, in response to Freedom of Information requests sent to all 243 NHS trusts in Britain.

211 trusts responded to the BBC’s inquiry, of which 198 said they operated hospitals with the potentially lethal material inside. The use of asbestos in construction was banned in the 1980s and the material is considered safe if it is left undisturbed. However, building work can cause fibres to be released and inhaled, thereby putting human health at risk.

NHS Improvement said that experts are brought in to safely remove asbestos when construction work is undertaken in its hospitals, adding that strict regulations ensured the safe registration and containment of the material.

However, an MP has said there should be an audit to determine the extent of the problem of asbestos within NHS buildings.

Worries about the risks of disturbed or deteriorated asbestos

Chair of the All Parliamentary Group for Occupational Health and Safety, Jo Stevens MP, urged the government to undertake an audit to “ensure every trust knows the extent of asbestos on their premises and has a plan for dealing with it.”

She added: “If it’s there, it will at some point become dangerous if it’s disturbed or if it deteriorates, so I’d like to see long-term plans and long-term strategies in place for its removal from all buildings.

“I appreciate that you have to prioritise what you do and so that’s why there should be an audit of buildings so that the dangerous areas are dealt with first as a priority.”

 

The BBC also learned that the five-year period from January 2013 and December 2017 saw 352 claims made against health trusts by people who had developed asbestos-related diseases in NHS buildings.

The trusts said that approximately £6.8 million in payouts had been made in response to these claims. However, three legal firms told the BBC that they had won compensation claims amounting to more than £16.4 million during the same period.

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Concerns expressed over possible asbestos from demolished Bradford lodge

Calls have been made by Bradford residents to tackle a potential asbestos threat from a suddenly demolished historic lodge in the city.

As reported by the Telegraph & Argus, those living close to the largely levelled Wibsey Park Lodge have said they fear the site could be contaminated with the lethal substance. They include Gordon Peel, who lives opposite the park and recently attended a meeting of the Friends of Wibsey Park group, where concerns were raised about the building possibly containing asbestos.

He told the newspaper: “When I heard about the potential for asbestos in the building, I wanted to make sure that something would be done about it.”

“We don’t want dangerous particles to be released into the air”

 Mr Peel continued: “There was talk at the meeting about the asbestos now being buried under the rubble, and that there had been fires on the site to burn some wood.

“We don’t want dangerous particles to be released into the air. When they come to clear the bricks and rubble from the site, if there is any asbestos, it will end up being dug up again. It’s particularly worrying given the way the building has been demolished without the right paperwork in place.”

Also present at the meeting was Labour Wibsey councillor David Green, who has got in touch with the council about the asbestos fears. He said that the local authority had not been notified beforehand that the lodge would be demolished, which meant there wasn’t time for asbestos checks to be undertaken in advance.

He commented: “A number of people at the meeting expressed concerns that they believed they had seen asbestos being covered over and buried within the rubble.

“So I contacted the council’s environmental health department and have asked them to liaise with the Environment Agency so they can inspect the site and see whether asbestos isn’t being disposed of properly and take the appropriate action.”

Contact Trident Asbestos Solutions about your own asbestos removal needs

 A spokesman for Bradford Council said that while the building was not listed, demolition was not permitted without prior approval from the council. He added that the owner had been contacted about the matter and was attempting to remedy the planning-control breach by making a retrospective planning application.

The three-bedroom property was judged surplus to operational requirements by corporate trustees and sold at auction in September. Proceeds are set to be reinvested in the park.

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Findings of government’s schools asbestos survey won’t be published until the spring

The Department for Education (DfE) has reopened its schools asbestos survey to responses until next February, with minister Nick Gibb admitting that almost a quarter of schools had not yet participated in its “asbestos management assurance process”.

It means the findings from the survey will not be published until the spring of 2019, giving rise to concerns that the arrival of the report could be too late to influence long-term expenditure plans.

An eagerly anticipated report

Many have been waiting with bated breath for the publication of the results of the survey, which originally closed at the end of May this year. The “asbestos management assurance process” asks schools to declare whether or not they are compliant with their legal duty to manage asbestos on their premises.

Gibb told MPs during education questions on the afternoon of Monday 12th November that while 77% of schools had already responded, “we expect all state-funded schools and academies to participate, so we have reopened the assurance process from today until February 2019, to give them a further opportunity to do so.”

He also revealed: “The results of the asbestos management assurance process will be published in the spring next year.”

Fears of knock-on effects for school asbestos funding

The extension of the survey has led to fears that the results won’t be released early enough to influence next year’s comprehensive spending review, which will determine the amount of money to be received by schools from 2020.

Labour MP and chair of the parliamentary public accounts committee, Meg Hillier, has repeatedly voiced concerns about the prevalence of schools-based asbestos.

On Monday, she urged ministers to make more funding available to address the issue, commenting: “The problem with publishing this long-awaited information in the spring is that this is likely to be too late to properly influence the spending review.

“Given that 85% of schools have asbestos and the risks are getting greater as those buildings age, will the minister make a serious commitment to providing the funding to schools to tackle that asbestos, otherwise there’s no real incentive for them to come up with a plan, given the pinch on their budgets?”

Gibb replied by referring to existing capital funding pots that schools could use for maintenance, including tackling asbestos in their buildings. He added that 68% of the 17,000 schools that had responded to the survey so far were found to be “assured by the appropriate responsible body”.

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