Suffolk health services moved over roof collapse fears

By Matt Precey & Nikki Fox
BBC Look East

Image caption,
About 20 services have had to relocate from Haverhill Health Centre

A town's community health services have been relocated due to a structural problem affecting NHS sites across England.

Props have been installed at Haverhill Health Centre in Suffolk to support its roof due to risks associated with the use of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC).

An NHS spokesman said the majority of affected services would stay local.

The government has ringfenced £110m to address the problem nationally.

Approximately 20 medical services and administrative teams based at the site on Camps Road have been moved elsewhere.

At least seven have been relocated outside of Haverhill, including multiple sclerosis support, dermatology and rheumatology.

Some of these services are now based at nearby West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, which itself is grappling with RAAC problems in its roof and supporting walls.

In August, the BBC revealed the hospital had commissioned a report into the risk of corporate manslaughter charges should a fatal roof collapse occur.

RAAC planks were used to build seven hospitals across England in the 1970s and 80s. They were used in roofs, floors and walls of NHS buildings and schools and had an expected lifespan of 30 years.

The material has since deteriorated and structural weaknesses have been identified.

Leaked documents previously seen by the BBC said at least 32 NHS sites across England had been built using the material.

'I depend on them'

Image caption,
Dot Tweddle said she only heard about the closure of the centre from her friend Sue Long

The last podiatry clinic at Haverhill Health Centre was held on Friday and services are being temporarily transferred to other locations in Suffolk.

Dot Tweddle, 70, suffers from diabetes and has her feet examined by the podiatry services based there.

She has difficulty walking and uses a mobility scooter to get around.

"I depend on them and if it wasn't there I don't know what I would do. I live five minutes away.

"I was in there six to eight weeks ago and it wasn't mentioned at all.

"If it wasn't for my friend Sue I wouldn't have known".

The Suffolk GP Federation said it had contacted patients to move their appointments and had offered some patients home visits.

It said this was a "temporary fix" as they would shortly be moving to Anne of Cleves House in Haverhill.

Image caption,
Props have been installed to support the roof while work is carried out to make the building safe

NHS Property Services, which owns the building, said the RAAC panels were only discovered recently when a building survey was carried out.

The organisation said it was carrying out a programme to identify properties built using the material within its estate across England.

A spokesman said: "All tenants have chosen to relocate from the building until the roof replacement is complete.

"Clinical services will therefore not be provided from Haverhill Health Centre during this time, and patients will be contacted shortly by their service providers with details of where their services will be provided until the maintenance works are complete".

The West Suffolk Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the main provider at the site, has moved services to locations including Haverhill Leisure Centre, West Suffolk Hospital's outpatients' department - 19 miles (30km) away in Bury St Edmunds - and Anne of Cleves House. Community dialects services have been moved 16 miles (25 miles) away to Sudbury.

In a statement, the Trust said: "The majority of services have been relocated in Haverhill, while some specialist services have temporarily relocated to the West Suffolk Hospital.

"The trust continues to research potential locations that will enable services to be co-located in the future, to ensure we continue to meet the health and care needs of the Haverhill community."

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