Nine out of 10 NHS trusts revealed to have asbestos in hospitals

An investigation has found that nine out of 10 NHS trusts say they have hospitals containing asbestos.

Of the 211 trusts who responded to FOI requests, 198 admitted that they ran hospitals which contained the hazardous material.

The BBC investigation also found 352 legal claims had been made against trusts between 2013 and 2017 by people claiming they had developed asbestos-related diseases from NHS premises.

It is indicated in documents from those trusts that they have paid out around £6.8m in compensation, though legal firms told the BBC that they had won compensation totalling more than £16.4bn in the same period.

NHS Improvement says there is strict regulation in place to ensure asbestos in buildings are registered and safely contained.

Asbestos was widely used as a building material between the 1950s and 70s and is potentially dangerous when inhaled, causing related diseases such as mesothelioma – a cancer on the lining of the chest that causes more than 5,000 deaths in the UK each year.

The chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Occupational Health and Safety has urged the government to conduct an audit of the entire health system “to ensure every trust knows the extent of asbestos on their premises and has a plan for dealing with it.”

She commented: “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 charity Mesothelioma UK has said it is launching a research project into the impact on hospital workers and that it was not surprised by the findings as a lot of NHS hospitals were built at the peak of importing asbestos in the country.

A spokesman for NHS Improvement said: “Many parts of the NHS estate date from an era when asbestos was widely used. Asbestos is considered safe if it is undisturbed.

“When building or other work is carried out, experts are brought in to safely dispose of it.”


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