HALF the NHS buildings in Scotland contain asbestos, leading to calls for action to remove the potentially deadly substance. More than half of NHS Scotland’s buildings contain asbestos.
The ‘shock’ figures show 52% of NHS Scotland buildings contained the toxic substance which can cause cancer.
Of Scotland’s 14 health boards, eight said they had asbestos in more than 50% of their buildings – with that figure rising to a “staggering” 92% in the NHS Lothian.
Scottish Conservatives have raised concerns that asbestos levels in NHS Scotland buildings are significantly higher than in other Scottish Government buildings, where the average is around 26%.
They have criticized the SNP government for failing to protect staff and vulnerable patients – and called for the safe removal of asbestos from affected buildings.
As of August, around 17 out of 65 buildings used by the Scottish Government contain the fibrous minerals, which have been linked to cancer and lung damage.
Scottish charity Asbestos Action, which helps those suffering from asbestos and families, has previously criticized the Scottish Government for its continued “refusal” to safely remove the toxic material.
The Health and Safety Executive said it still kills around 5,000 workers annually – more than the number of people killed on the streets.
About 20 artisans die every week as a result of previous exposures.
Miles Briggs MSP, the Scottish Conservatives’ Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Social Justice, Housing and Local Government, said: “These shocking figures will no doubt raise questions about the state of our NHS buildings under the SNP.
“Buildings like hospitals are supposed to be places where people feel safe, but more than half of them contain this potentially carcinogenic substance.
“While we know asbestos is unlikely to be inhaled unless buildings are damaged, NHS staff and patients need the confidence and reassurance that they are not at risk.
“It is therefore important that SNP ministers provide health departments with the means to ensure the safe removal of asbestos from their buildings.
“The SNP Government needs to do more to protect our NHS assets and ensure dedicated staff can continue to save lives in the best possible facilities.”
When materials containing asbestos are disturbed or damaged, fibers are released into the air.
When these fibers are inhaled, they can cause serious illnesses that often take a long time to develop.
But once diagnosed, it’s often too late to do anything.
Diseases can be mesothelioma, asbestos-related lung cancer, asbestosis and pleural thickening.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We recognize the danger of asbestos and the associated health risks, but asbestos is only dangerous when disturbed, so it is important that it remains in situ while it is in ‘good’ condition and that all directions from the Health and Safety Executive will be followed in the planning and execution of moves.
“This is the situation for management of asbestos in NHS buildings across the UK. NHS England, for example, found that over 90% of its buildings inspected in the last three years had material containing asbestos.”