Liberal Democrats pledge £1bn a year to tackle ‘crumbling’ hospitals

The Liberal Democrats have pledged to spend £1 billion a year on repairing “crumbling” NHS hospitals if they come to power after the General Election.

The party claimed millions of people would be treated in the hospitals most affected by dangerous reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (Raac) by 2030 and accused the Conservatives of failing to act on the threat.

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “The Conservatives have let our NHS crumble. They have failed to protect millions of patients and NHS staff who are forced to treat people in dangerous buildings.”

Warning of a “race against time to fix our hospitals”, she said staff and patients should not be “in a constant state of fear”.

The Raac scandal has seen public buildings including hospitals, schools and fire stations deemed unsafe as the concrete begins to crumble after reaching the end of its expected lifespan.

But the NHS Confederation, which represents health services, said £1 billion would “barely scratch the surface” and called for whoever wins the election to increase capital spending on the NHS by £6.4 billion per year.

Dr Layla McCay, director of policy at the NHS Confederation, said: “Health leaders and their teams will welcome the focus on repairing the crumbling NHS estate, with the backlog maintenance bill now standing at £11.6 billion.

“Not only are buildings that are dilapidated or no longer fit for purpose demoralising for staff, but they can also be a safety risk for patients as well as a barrier to productivity.”

Sir Julian Hartley, chief executive of NHS Providers, said the Liberal Democrats “must not underestimate the scale of the challenge at hand”, adding: “Crucial chunks of the NHS estate are literally falling to bits due to chronic underinvestment.”

The Liberal Democrats said only four of the 58 hospitals identified as having Raac buildings had fixed the issue, and none of the seven most affected hospitals had managed to eradicate the problem.

They argued that, if current trends continue, some 4.4 million patients would be admitted at those seven trusts between now and 2030.

But Health Secretary Victoria Atkins said the Lib Dems could only “snipe from the sidelines” and stage “ridiculous gimmicks”, adding that the party would “prop up a Labour government”.

She said: “Rishi Sunak and the Conservatives have a clear plan and have taken bold action, not only committing to building 40 new hospitals by 2030, but also delivering 160 community diagnostic centres, a year ahead of the original target.

“These centres have already delivered more than seven million tests, checks and scans across England, helping to tackle ill-health across the country.”

In May 2023, the Government committed to prioritising rebuilding facilities that included Raac.