Publication reference: PRN00777
- All NHS trusts:
- chief executive officers
- estates leads
- Integrated care boards:
- chief executive officers
- estates leads
- Regional directors
Reinforced aerated autoclaved concrete (RAAC)
Last week new guidance was published by the Department for Education regarding the approach to the presence of RAAC in the school estate. This has generated heightened public interest in the presence of RAAC in the NHS estate, and a number of questions from colleagues.
You are all aware of the risks associated with RAAC as part of the extensive programme of work undertaken over recent years. We are writing to reiterate the position in the NHS estate, and to outline actions you should be taking to assure yourselves as far as possible that RAAC is identified and appropriately mitigated, to keep patients, staff and visitors safe.
To provide co-ordination to these actions, we will be communicating via regional operations centres. Please therefore ensure that appropriate arrangements are made within your organisation to be able to respond to communication from your regional operations centre (ROC) on this subject.
Guidance on RAAC identification, monitoring and remediation
All guidelines on RAAC are based and driven by expert advice from the Institute for Structural Engineers (IStructE). There has been no change in IStructE guidance, which government has confirmed continues to be the basis of action to manage the situation in the NHS and wider public sector. We continue to work closely with government departments and technical advisory groups and have asked to be made aware of any changes to the guidance so that we can share these with you immediately.
Following an alert issued by The Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS) in 2019, the NHS in England put in place a now well-established programme to identify RAAC, support providers to put appropriate mitigations in place, and plan for eradication. We have worked closely with the trusts managing the 27 previously identified sites, including securing funding for investigative, safety/remedial and replacement work, with three of those sites now having eradicated RAAC.
As part of this ongoing work, in May 2023 NHS England sent out additional guidance to organisations including all provider trusts (including mental health, community and ambulance) following updated national guidance from IStructE on RAAC identification, management and remediation and Further Guidance on Investigation and Assessment (April 2023).
Identification of RAAC
We asked trusts to assess their estate again based on this updated guidance. Initial assessments of additional sites identified through this process are already being undertaken and are expected to be completed by the end of this week. The national RAAC programme team are collating information from these assessments, including where appropriate mitigation plans and the steps necessary to remove this material from use.
Given the importance of this work, we ask that – in any instances where this has not already been the case – boards ensure they support their estates teams and review the returns they provided to assure themselves that the assessments made were sufficiently thorough and covered all buildings and areas on your estate (including plant/works, education and other non-clinical areas/buildings).
Integrated care boards (ICBs) will want assurance about the primary care estate and should work with their local primary practices and primary care networks (PCNs) to ensure you have confirmation that no RAAC has been identified or, where it has, on the identification and management of RAAC. Guidance for the primary care estate was circulated in January of this year, which ROCs can reshare.
Management of identified RAAC
Trusts which have previously identified RAAC will have put in place management plans in line with the IStructE guidance.
In light of the need to maintain both the safety and confidence of staff, patients and visitors, we recommend that in those organisations where the presence of RAAC has been confirmed and is being managed, boards take steps now to assure themselves that the management plans in place for each incidence – and particularly where panels are currently subject to monitoring only – are sufficiently robust and being implemented.
Where you think you require assistance in completing this work, please contact: email@example.com.
Planning for RAAC incidents
Effective management of RAAC significantly reduces associated risks; but does not completely eliminate them. Planning for RAAC failure, including the decant of patients and services where RAAC panels are present in clinical areas, is therefore part of business continuity planning for trusts where RAAC is known to be present, or is potentially present.
A regional evacuation plan was created and tested in the East of England. Learnings from this exercise have been cascaded to the other regions.
We would recommend that all boards ensure that they are familiar with the learning from this exercise and that they are being incorporated into standard business continuity planning as a matter of good practice.
This exercise is, however, essential for those organisations with known RAAC, and should be done as a matter of priority if it has not already been completed.
Thank you to you and your teams for the work on this to date, particularly in those organisations where RAAC has been found and management/remediation plans have been enacted. As mentioned above we will communicate further information through ROCs.
Jacqui Rock, Chief Commercial Officer.
Dr Mike Prentice, National Director for Emergency Planning and Incident Response.