PRESSURE is being stepped-up for the Government to fund a new Airedale Hospital.

Bradford Council leader Councillor Susan Hinchcliffe has written to the Health and Social Care Secretary stressing the need for the current building – at Steeton – to be replaced.

In her letter to Sajid Javid, she says more than 80 per cent of the structure – including walls, floors and ceilings – is made from a type of aerated concrete which has a ‘lifespan’ of 30 years. The building was opened in 1970.

Cllr Hinchcliffe adds that Airedale is the most ‘at risk’ of all hospitals nationally constructed from the material, because of the extent of its use in the building.

Due to issues arising from the condition of the hospital, urgent work has had to be carried out in some wards and clinical areas, which has included temporary closures in parts of the building.

Among repairs has been the installation of steel beams to make areas safe and prevent further deterioration of the concrete.

Cllr Hinchcliffe said two other hospitals with similar aerated concrete problems elsewhere in the country had now been allocated funding through the Government’s New Hospitals Programme for a full rebuild, yet Airedale was still waiting.

“I appeal to you to correct this anomaly and add Airedale to the list,” she says in her letter.

“It will provide the dramatically-improved health facilities that our residents need and deserve – and it makes economic sense.”

Across the NHS estate nationally, Airedale has suffered the most roof leaks of any hospital – 327 in 18 months.

Aerated concrete panels can bend over time, causing water to pool on the surface and add more weight. The panels are then prone to cracking or crumbling.

Cllr Hinchcliffe recently went on the hospital’s roof to inspect the damage for herself.

She was accompanied by Airedale NHS Foundation Trust chief executive Brendan Brown; David Moss, managing director of AGH Solutions, the trust’s estates and procurement body; Bradford Council health and wellbeing portfolio holder Cllr Sarah Ferriby, the health scrutiny chair Cllr Vanda Greenwood and climate emergency assistant executive member Cllr Caroline Firth.

The letter also calls for updated facilities at mental health hospital Lynfield Mount and Bradford Royal Infirmary.

Last month, plans for a new Airedale Hospital were amongst an ambitious £1.7 billion-plus package of proposals put forward to the Government.

The new complex would be Europe’s first carbon-neutral hospital.

The package – submitted by the Act as One health and care partnership, which covers Bradford district and Craven – also included proposals for other new-build hospitals.

Lynfield Mount in Bradford would be rebuilt to develop a new acute inpatient facility.

And Bradford Royal Infirmary and St Luke’s would be replaced with a single-site, purpose-built hospital.

Cllr Hinchcliffe says: “We stand alongside our local NHS partners in making this call on Government to fund vital improvements in our district’s hospitals.

“Most urgently, I am concerned about the condition of the building at Airedale.

“Whilst everything is being done to keep the hospital as safe as possible, it is clear that the situation remains high-risk and a long-term solution is needed to eradicate the problems.

“Our residents deserve and expect world-class facilities and we are making that case to Government with Airedale’s leaders but, really, there is no case to make and this money should be provided urgently by the Government.

“It’s not lost on me that previously announced new-builds are in constituencies with Conservative MPs – one serving the then-Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s constituency.”

She says Airedale’s backlog maintenance bill stands at £584 million, whilst a new build – currently costed with an end date of 2029 – would be just over £601 million.

Cllr Hinchcliffe added: “The hospital can’t afford to pay out hand over fist, which it is doing to keep the public safe.

“It makes long-term financial sense to follow the hospital trust’s plan to build a new, net-zero-carbon hospital on the current site and move into it – then landscape the current grounds afterwards. This proposal would also fit in with the Government’s – and our – plan to ensure our buildings are as climate-friendly as possible. It’s time for the Government to make a positive decision.”