We are determined to address the safety issues caused by RAAC. We are prioritising the seven worst-affected hospitals and have a fund of just under £700 million covering the four-year programme of replacement.
The hon. Member raises an interesting point about asbestos, because much of the NHS estate dates from a time when asbestos was widely used. Of course, asbestos is considered safe if it is undisturbed. It is a similar issue with RAAC.
On RAAC, we are following the guidance from the Institution of Structural Engineers and monitoring it. The advice is not that all RAAC needs to be replaced; the point is that it needs to be monitored. Where there is deterioration, we have a fund of just under £700 million to tackle that. The asbestos is being monitored, as is the RAAC. We have been monitoring this since 2019 and have a four-year national programme backed up with £700 million to address issues as and when they arise.
The residents of Stoke-on-Trent North, Kidsgrove and Talke would like me to place their thanks on the record to the Secretary of State for having ensured that the Haywood walk-in centre, which has RAAC present, has just received £26.5 million for a new build out-patient building, which will do a lot to improve the care of residents locally. As spades are already in the ground, will the Secretary of State commit to coming to visit so that we can show off this fantastic progress?
It is always a pleasure to visit my hon. Friend’s constituency. He highlights a good illustration of how the national programme is working, backed with that £700 million of funding. We are closely monitoring the estate and, where RAAC mitigation is required, that work is taking place. He brings a good example of that to the House’s attention.
Not only are the hospital buildings crumbling after 13 years of neglect, creating huge capacity challenges; it seems that those still standing do not have enough beds. As we heard from The Times this morning, the number of
“hospital beds…has fallen by almost 3,000 since ministers promised 5,000 before winter”.
It feels pretty much like winter to me. Is that just another broken promise?
First, we have got more than £1 billion of investment in an additional 5,000 permanent beds going into the NHS estate as part of our urgent and emergency care recovery programme. More widely, the Government are committed to the biggest ever investment in the NHS estate, backed with more than £20 billion—the biggest of any Government. Of course, we will not take lectures from Labour, which bequeathed the NHS the consequence of expensive private finance initiative deals that many trusts are still paying for to this day.