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Hundreds of NHS buildings in Scotland still contain deadly asbestos

The STUC, TUC and MPs have warned hundreds of NHS buildings across Scotland still contain asbestos, including hospitals.   

Sat 28th January 2023 The PDA

  • New TUC research reveals many NHS premises still contain asbestos – including hospitals
  • Asbestos is still present in at least 695 buildings in Scotland – the majority of those surveyed
  • Data finds asbestos within 100% of premises duty owned by NHS Dumfries and Galloway and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde
  • TUC calls for new legislation requiring the removal of all asbestos from public buildings

The research was carried out by Labour Research Department (LRD) for the TUC, STUC and the All Party Parliamentary Group on Occupational Safety and Health. The PDA have been a part of the STUC since 2021 and welcome this report.

Across Scotland, premises for which NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and NHS Dumfries and Galloway are the duty holders, data showed asbestos within all (100%) of buildings. The report has been labelled as “stark” from STUC General Secretary Roz Foyer.

Asbestos is still the biggest workplace killer according to the Health and Safety Executive, and Britain has the highest rates of mesothelioma cases in the world. But new research reveals that the majority of NHS buildings, including hospitals, health centres, blood donor clinics and GP surgeries, still contain asbestos more than 23 years since its use was banned in new buildings. 

The survey found at least 695 premises with asbestos – owned or used by NHS Boards in Scotland, during the first half of 2022. The TUC says the extent of asbestos presence in the research sample raises concern for the wellbeing of workers and members of the public using these premises. The TUC is calling for new legislation requiring removal of all asbestos from public buildings, rather than the current policy of “managing” it. 

Commenting on the research, STUC General Secretary, Roz Foyer said, This is a stark report which underlines the grave concerns we have about the extent of asbestos in public buildings in Scotland.

Death and illness from asbestos-related conditions is not just a legacy from the past, it is in the here and now for thousands of people in Scotland. It would be unforgivable if governments and politicians continued to sit on their hands whilst people could be needlessly put at risk.

We need an urgent plan for stepping up asbestos removal. Patients across Scotland cannot afford to wait any longer.”

TUC General Secretary, Paul Nowak said, “Asbestos exposure continues to cause thousands of deaths every year. Yet asbestos is still with us in workplaces and public buildings across the country. As a result, decades after the use of asbestos was banned, hundreds of thousands of workers, patients and members of the public are still put at risk of exposure every day.

The only way to protect today’s workers and future generations is through the safe removal of asbestos from all workplaces and public buildings. We need national government to work with NHS Trusts on a plan to remove it from every last building.” 

MP and Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Asbestos, Ian Lavery said, “These shocking figures expose the extent of risk to dangerous carcinogenic exposure in the very places designed to nurture our health.

Thousands of people are dying every year of asbestos-related illness, with thousands more being diagnosed. If asbestos is in a building, it will at some point become dangerous if it’s disturbed, so we need plans in place for its removal from all public buildings.” 

PDA National Officer for Scotland, Paul Flynn added, “Pharmacists working for NHS Scotland will be concerned about this report, both for themselves and for the patients that also attend some of these buildings.

The PDA wholeheartedly support the call for a planned and safe removal of deadly materials from all public buildings.”

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