Cladding Fails Fire Safety on New Liverpool Hospital

Cladding on the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital built by Carillion has failed fire safety tests, it has been revealed.

The new hospital was left partially completed when Carillion collapsed.

In a statement issued on 12 September, Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust says that before the company entered into liquidation it sought assurances from Carillion about the cladding. Carillion assured the Trust that:

“There are a number of different cladding systems utilised on the Royal Liverpool University Hospital all of which have been specified and installed to meet the required standards of fire safety. …The new hospital has been designed to comply with the requirements of HTM05-02 “Firecode – Fire Safety in the design of healthcare premises.”

A survey by structural engineers, Arup, has found that some parts of the cladding do not meet fire safety standards, as well as finding structural defects as a result of defective concrete beams.

The construction was financed through a Private Finance Initiative (PFI) deal with private investors who will ‘lease’ the building back to the government. The hospital’s Trust had agreed with the funders to continue investing in the project to completion.

However, due to the faults found on the new hospital, the completion date of 30 September 2018 for the project will not now be met, and as a result the PFI contract can be terminated if the Trust wishes.

The Trust says “There has been added complexity in reaching an estimate of the costs to complete the new Royal, as a result of remedial work required to correct faults created by Carillion. Arup has identified the requirement for further improvements to the structure and to cladding.”

The Hospital Trust added, “The Board will be discussing all their options later this month. If the [PFI] contract was terminated, we would need to engage the lenders in complex discussions regarding the status of their investment. These discussions would need to be resolved before a new contract to complete the hospital could be agreed.”

The funders – the European Investment Bank and Legal and General pensions – are “keen to find a way to continue to support the project”, according to the Trust, and “discussions between the government and the funders to agree a way forward are continuing and we expect these discussions to generate an agreed outcome very soon.”

It says that if investors no longer supported the completion of the hospital, then it would require government support similar to that provided to Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust in order to complete the Midland Metropolitan Hospital, raising the question of why a similar solution was not provided for the new Royal hospital in Liverpool.

The Liverpool Trust says that because the new Midland Metropolitan Hospital was in its early stages when Carillion collapsed it proved impossible to reach an agreed rescue package with its funders. A taxpayer funded solution was therefore the best value option to getting the Midland hospital completed. Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust will now need to go out to tender, which will add a substantial amount of time to their expected date of delivery.

Across the board checks
The construction union, Unite, is now urging across the board checks on workplaces which have cladding following the cladding failures in Liverpool’s new hospital. The calls are more urgent, the Union says, as this is not the first time that a new hospital has been found to be fitted with flammable cladding. In July it was revealed that the Papworth Hospital in Cambridge being built by Skanska had to be delayed, as the cladding did not pass safety standards.

Unite’s national health and safety adviser Rob Miguel said: “It is now clear that company assurances from employers and construction companies about the safety of cladding could be in question.

“Workers who were concerned last year will now be highly alarmed about safety at their workplace. Rather than assurances they need clear evidence that cladding is safe. Until then employers need to introduce additional safety measures.”

Problems and weaknesses of PFI
Commenting on Liverpool Trust’s forthcoming decision of whether to cancel the PFI contract under which the hospital is being built Unite assistant general secretary Gail Cartmail said: “The government has got to stop ducking the issue and commit to directly funding the Royal Liverpool Hospital project while also ensuring it is completed as quickly as feasible.

“Carillion’s demise has fully exposed the problems and weaknesses of the PFI scheme which now needs to be scrapped once and for all. PFI projects are expensive, undemocratic and damage pay, conditions and union rights.”

“There is growing anger in Liverpool about the failure to open the Royal Liverpool Hospital. The project is now 18 months late and the latest revelations will further delay the project. There are additional concerns about health provision in Liverpool due to the poor condition of the existing Royal Liverpool Hospital and the Women’s Hospital in Liverpool is also set for closure.”

Earlier this week at the TUC Congress, Unite called for an immediate criminal investigation into the individuals involved and responsible for the collapse of Carillion.

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