Sizewell C impacting RAAC hospital rebuild, says NHS trust

The pool of contractors willing to rebuild a Suffolk hospital infested with crumble-risk concrete is limited, partly due to nearby work on Sizewell C, its NHS Trust has said.

A West Suffolk NHS Trust report given to its board last week said that the contractor market for rebuilding West Suffolk Hospital – one of 40 new hospitals the government has promised by 2030 – would be stretched due to other hospital builds and the local nuclear mega-project.

It added that the cost of building the new facility was likely to exceed the initial funding received from the government’s New Hospital Programme (NHP).

The report said: “It is highly likely that the cost of building the ‘right-sized’ hospital will exceed the initial capital allocations received from NHP.

“This issue is shared by most, if not all, of the schemes within the New Hospital Programme…

“The other common challenge facing every scheme in the programme concerns the ability of a scheme to attract a construction partner in a market that will be significantly stretched by other hospital projects and, locally, by schemes such as the new Sizewell nuclear power plant.”

The trust added that although it was supporting the NHP to develop a major works framework for the programme, the urgency of West Suffolk Hospital’s rebuild may require a different procurement approach.

A National Audit Office report last July flagged concerns about procurement for the NHP, saying it had identified only four contractors willing to take on complex hospital builds.

The trust has not yet started to tender for a construction partner, although it has received funding for enabling works and the development of its outline business case.

A review of “buildability” by Mott McDonald and Mace (national technical consultants) has been completed, to ensure the build parameters are deliverable by contractors.

West Suffolk Hospital is one of seven hospitals included in the NHP due to the high presence of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC), a common post-war building material that has caused ceiling collapses in some schools.

The government announced last May it would prioritise hospitals in the programme with large amounts of RAAC, due to the risks to patients and staff.

The hospital is currently using props and end-bearing supports to avoid structural failures until the new hospital has been built.

Craig Black, executive director of resources for the West Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, said: “As with all large-scale programmes, the team are aware of possible risks and plan to mitigate these as much as possible by working with the central New Hospital Programme team and the construction industry.

“The note within the board report evidences the team’s transparent approach to managing the programme and sharing any potential hurdles with the planned contingencies alongside.”

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