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Large repair bill for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust due to ‘ageing estate and RAAC’ at West Suffolk Hospital site in Bury St Edmunds





The NHS trust that runs West Suffolk Hospital has a high-risk repairs backlog of more than £65 million – one of the largest in the country – as it deals with structural problems at its ageing estate.

West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (WSFT) is ranked seventh out of English trusts with the biggest high-risk repairs backlogs for general acute hospitals in 2022/23, with its bill standing at £65,683,727.

High-risk repairs are those which must be urgently addressed to prevent catastrophic failure or major disruption to clinical services.

Plans to build a new West Suffolk Hospital remain on track, the trust has said
Plans to build a new West Suffolk Hospital remain on track, the trust has said

The repair bill for WSFT was revealed through a BBC Shared Data Unit investigation, which estimates that nationally the bill to complete so-called high-risk repairs needed at NHS acute hospitals has swollen to £2 billion.

WSFT, which runs West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, said the the vast majority of the £65.7 million repairs backlog was associated with the remedial works undertaken to mitigate the risks associated with RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete), for which it has received significant funding from the Government.

Craig Black, executive director of resources for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust
Craig Black, executive director of resources for West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

Craig Black, executive director of resources for WSFT, said: “The safety of patients, staff, and visitors is our priority and we have always followed expert, independent advice when it comes to the management of our buildings.

“Due to our ageing estate and the prevalence of RAAC across much of our West Suffolk Hospital site, we have undertaken a large programme of remedial works to support our RAAC infrastructure and made improvements in areas that include asbestos, ventilation and fire safety.

“As part of these works, which are well advanced and sit alongside general maintenance, we continually address areas of ongoing concern and do so as and when further risks are identified.

“In addition, we are a ‘priority site’ under the Government’s New Hospital Programme and are on track to deliver a new healthcare facility on Hardwick Manor in Bury St Edmunds by 2030.”

Plans for a new, larger West Suffolk Hospital, located on the Hardwick Manor site in Hardwick Lane, were given the go-ahead in November 2022.

Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at The King’s Fund, an independent charitable organisation working to improve health and care in England, said: “The terrible state of some NHS buildings and equipment should be a wake-up call for the Government.

This picture shows the temporary acrow props at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, from 2022
This picture shows the temporary acrow props at West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, from 2022

“Despite pledges to build and refurbish NHS hospitals, the data clearly shows how some NHS facilities are simply not fit for the purpose of delivering modern health care.

“But as shocking as the data is, it will not be news to senior leaders in the NHS and to government ministers.

“Repeated warnings have been sounded over the repeated failure to prioritise long-term investment in the upkeep and development of NHS facilities.”

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "We have invested significant sums to upgrade and modernise NHS buildings – including £4.2 billion this financial year – so staff have the facilities needed to provide world-class care for patients.

“Trusts are responsible for prioritising this funding to maintain and refurbish their premises, including the renewal and replacement of equipment.

“This is on top of the expected investment of over £20 billion for the New Hospital Programme, a further £1.7 billion for over 70 hospital upgrades across England, and a range of nationally funded infrastructure improvements in mental health, urgent and emergency care and diagnostic capacity.”

Another picture of acrow props, from 2022
Another picture of acrow props, from 2022

The repair costs have been sourced from a public dataset, which tracks the amount the NHS needs to maintains its buildings.

In terms of the impact on WSFT patients, it has not been possible to assess this as the trust did not provide the information on when the ability to deliver care has been affected by failures in the hospital environment.