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Hospital cladding remediation confirmed

30 June 2020

THE ROYAL Liverpool Hospital has ‘called off’ its search for a cladding remediation contractor, and will give the job to original manufacturer Martifer.

In May 2018 it was reported that the hospital – then still under construction - had been found to have been built with non compliant cladding on its exterior walls. The hospital was being built by Carillion before the company collapsed, and after work stalled a review of fire safety and building work found that the building, which Carillion said had complied with fire safety regulations, was clad in combustible material that would need to be replaced ‘at additional cost’.

Royal Liverpool Hospital Trust chief executive Aiden Kehoe stated that Carillion’s claim that it complied with fire safety regulations was ‘not the case’, and added that the issue had only ‘come to light’ due to the renewed focus on fire safety and construction since Grenfell. A spokesman for the trust commented: ‘There has been added complexity in reaching an estimate of the costs to complete the new Royal, as a result of remedial work required to correct faults created by Carillion.

‘Before they entered into liquidation, the trust sought assurances from Carillion about this cladding and they told us that there are a number of different cladding systems utilised, all of which have been specified and installed to meet the required standards of fire safety. The recent review has found this not to be the case with some parts of the cladding.’

Mr Kehoe said that while this particular cladding was different to that used on Grenfell Tower, it would still need to be replaced by non combustible material, though he had hoped in 2018 that a deal could be reached to cover the costs for completing the building, which had naturally ‘escalated’. Now, Place North West has reported that the hospital trust has ‘called off’ its search for a cladding contractor, ‘in favour’ of giving the task to original manufacturer Martifer.

The company will remove combustible cladding and ‘rectify the issues identified with the original installation’, according to a trust spokesperson, with the tender launched earlier this year valued between £10m and £20m ‘no longer seeking a specialised contractor’. The work is expected to take 20 months to complete, with the news outlet pointing out that engineering firm Arup stated in September last year that some of the cladding ‘failed to meet’ revised UK fire safety regulations.

It also noted that Laing O’Rourke had taken over the project in 2018, and the whole project is ‘not expected to finish’ until 2022. A trust spokesperson commented: ‘Following a thorough assessment of the cladding of the new Royal Liverpool University Hospital, additional work on a section of the cladding is being undertaken by the original supplier, Martifer. A procurement process to replace this section of cladding has therefore now been terminated.’

The hospital was also at the centre of increased risks during the COVID-19 pandemic in March (https://www.thefpa.co.uk/news/news/news_detail.hospitals-warned-over-ventilator-fire-risks.html), with NHS England warning hospitals that ventilators being used to treat seriously ill patients ‘pose an increased risk of hospital fires’ due to high levels of oxygen. The Royal Liverpool Hospital was warned it faced increased risks as staff ‘continue to deal with dilapidated buildings due to the delays’ to construction.

While hospital bosses had regularly liaised with Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service (MFRS) ‘to maintain safety’, the design of the old hospital ‘makes it impossible to meet full fire safety regulations’. Fire safety, it added, was ‘one of the fundamental reasons behind’ building the new site.

In a business case document from 2010 published by the hospital trust, executives stated: ‘The [hospital] is fundamentally non-compliant with fire code; the current action plan, agreed with the fire brigade, is new build replacement […] the most pressing need is to address the twin challenges of fire safety and condition of the engineering services at [the hospital], both of which threaten business continuity and the future development of services within the trust.’

A trust meeting this January saw directors told that despite work to reduce risks, ‘full compliance’ with MFRS and safety regulations was ‘not achievable’, with staff having expected to be in the new hospital three years ago before the ‘stunning collapse’ of developers Carillion and ‘design flaws’, which mean that ‘it could still be two years away’.

In response, a trust spokesman said it was ‘working to mitigate the risks posed’ by increased ventilator use, adding: ‘We are working on delivering a range of actions in relation to the emerging national guidance. These include working closely with our partners at [MFRS] to ensure best possible fire safety. We have further enhanced our assessment measures and we are providing bespoke training and guidance to support the safety of patients and staff.’

Hospital cladding remediation confirmed