Asbestos confirmed to be present in half of NHS buildings in Scotland

Reports indicating that half of NHS Scotland buildings contain asbestos have prompted calls for plans to be put in place to remove the potentially dangerous material.

The Herald newspaper said that “shock” data indicated that 52% of the Scottish NHS’s buildings contained the now-banned substance that can lead to fatal illness when inhaled or ingested.

The article stated that eight out of the 14 health boards in Scotland reported having asbestos in over 50% of their buildings; the percentage was as high as an “astonishing” 92% in the case of NHS Lothian.

asbestos in hospitals

“These shocking figures will undoubtedly raise questions”

The Scottish Conservatives voiced concern over these percentages being significantly above the rate of asbestos recorded for other Scottish Government buildings, for which the average figure is approximately 26%.

As of August, 17 out of the 65 buildings that the Scottish Government used were known to have asbestos present.

The Scottish Conservatives said that the Scottish National Party (SNP) Government had not done enough to ensure the safety of staff and vulnerable patients, and suggested that work should be undertaken to remove asbestos from buildings where it was present.

Miles Briggs MSP, the Scottish Conservatives’ shadow cabinet secretary for social justice, housing, and local government, commented: “These shocking figures will undoubtedly raise questions about the state of our NHS buildings under the SNP.

“Buildings such as hospitals are supposed to be places where people feel safe, yet more than half of them contain this potentially cancer-causing substance.

“While we know it’s unlikely that asbestos will be inhaled unless buildings are damaged, NHS staff and patients need confidence and peace of mind that they are not being put at risk.”

Mr Briggs urged the SNP Government to provide funding to health boards to allow for asbestos to be safely removed from the impacted buildings.

Scottish Government defends its approach to hospital-based asbestos

A spokesman for the Scottish Government stated: “We recognise the hazard of asbestos and the risks to health it poses, however asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed, which is why it is important it remain in-situ while it is in ‘good’ condition, and that all Health and Safety Executive (HSE) guidance is followed when planning and carrying out any removal.”

The spokesman compared the Scottish situation to that south of the border, stating that NHS England had found more than 90% of its buildings checked over the previous three years had been discovered to have asbestos-containing materials (ACMs).

Make sure you take seriously the asbestos risk on your own premises

It is indeed the HSE’s stance that asbestos shouldn’t pose a risk to health in instances where it is in good condition and is located somewhere that would not make it easy to damage. Nonetheless, it is crucial that you take every step to ensure any asbestos on premises for which you are responsible is appropriately managed.

In the event of ACMs sustaining damage or otherwise being disturbed, the fibres could be released into the air, thereby heightening the chances of someone coming into direct contact with them.

When asbestos is allowed to enter the body, this can lead to the development – potentially years or even decades later – of serious illnesses such as asbestosis, mesothelioma, and lung cancer. By the time an asbestos-related condition is diagnosed, it is often too late to provide treatment that would make a significant difference to survival.

To learn more about our own asbestos services here at Oracle Solutions, and to request a free and competitive quote, please feel free to contact us.