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Safety work continues at Withybush Hospital

Signpost with the name of Withybush Hospital written on it

28 July 2023

Work is continuing on a programme of surveys at Withybush General Hospital to determine the condition of concrete roof planks in wards at the hospital site in Haverfordwest.

The surveys, which began in May 2023, are aimed at managing the risks around reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) planks and are expected to continue for another seven months. 

RAAC is a material that was commonly used in construction in buildings between the 1960s and 1990s. Its presence has been confirmed in a range of National Health Service properties across the United Kingdom and includes several properties in Wales. 

Hywel Dda University Health Board’s Director of Operations, Andrew Carruthers, said: “In response to Welsh Government and wider industry alerts on this product, we have put in place a range of measures to manage the risk.

“In May 2023 we appointed a structural engineering company to undertake further intensive surveys of the areas in question and provide a full report on each individual RAAC plank.”

Survey work is being undertaken at pace and is likely to continue for several months. The work includes a visual survey of affected areas, before a plank-by-plank detailed survey.

Where structural issues are identified, the extent of the remedial work is also being assessed. This may see more local mitigations put in place, including structural props and temporary closure of impacted areas.

Mr Carruthers continued. “Survey and repair work will have an impact on clinical areas and hospital wards so all arrangements for repair work are being supported by the clinical hospital  managers.”

Plans were put in place at the beginning of the survey process to manage the impact on the operation of day-to-day services at the hospital with the availability of hospital beds a priority.

The order of surveys and associated remedial works have been arranged to make the most of clinical capacity to ensure both routine and emergency surgery can continue with minimal disruption to patient care.

To make up for the temporary loss of beds at Withybush, 14 additional beds have been made available in Cleddau Ward at South Pembrokeshire Hospital in Pembroke Dock.

“Our hospital and community teams are working closely together to provide effective alternatives to the reduced capacity at Withybush, ensuring our patients are cared for in a place that best suits their needs, and this includes more beds and treatments in our community hospitals,” said Mr Carruthers. “This in turn has enabled us to treat more patients who have required hospital care and reduce the time they stay in hospital.”

Teams are now implementing plans for the next phase of the surveys on the remaining wards and offices on the ground floor at Withybush Hospital. This includes a visual inspection of planks in the first instance, which will identify any areas of concern.

Mr Carruthers continued: “We know that the survey work can cause considerable disruption and I would like to thank hospital staff, patients and visitors for their patience and understanding while we are carrying out this essential work.”