Damaged concrete cladding panels have been removed from Wycombe Hospital’s crumbling tower to stop them falling on people.

Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust said 114 of the tower’s 316 panels were stripped off the outside of the 1960s building ‘as a precautionary measure for health and safety’.

Investigations concluded that the removal of the cladding would ‘eliminate the risk of injury or death from falling panels’, the trust said.

The rest of the 202 panels are expected to remain on the tower, with some being refixed.

The trust provided the update on Wycombe Hospital as it asked Buckinghamshire Council to approve work on the tower in a new planning application.

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The eight-storey structure, which has been covered in scaffolding and green netting for years, houses cardiac and intensive care units and operating theatres.

The building has a ‘critical maintenance’ backlog of £80m and costs the Trust £2m a year in monitoring and repairs.

Designed and built in the 1960s, the tower contains small, narrow wards, theatres on different floors and is poorly ventilated.

The trust previously that the tower ‘will not be fit for clinical use’ within the next five years and confirmed it has started removing services from the building.

In its planning application, the trust said that a ‘significant number of defects’ were discovered in many of the tower’s panels following structural inspections carried out between 2021 and 2023.

A planning report prepared for the trust by consultancy firm ADAS reads: “The report from the structural inspection notes the very poor condition of the exterior envelope of the tower building.”

Ongoing issues include water leaking from failed guttering and blocked downpipes, which in some cases has ‘severely corroded’ metal pins fixing the panels to the tower.

Corrosion in many cases is so advanced that it has ‘diminished the panel fixing completely’, the report said.

It added: “The failure of key components of the building’s fabric have contributed to the deterioration of the building and promoted movement of the cladding panels.”

The defects of panels include their rotation, lateral movement, and concrete deterioration due to leaking water.

The report added: “The results of the tests undertaken on the structure supporting the panels confirmed that the concrete was generally of very low strength, whereby 80 per cent of the results fell below the expected strength range.”

The tower also contains several cracked columns, according to inspection documents produced by Simpson TWS.

The structural and civil engineering firm said cladding was removed so the building could be assessed and because the ‘excessive movement’ of panels had been detected.

The ACAS report also said: “In the long-term, it is proposed that the building will be demolished and redeveloped as part of the wider redevelopment of the hospital.”

The report concluded: “Following the removal of scaffolding from the site, the current condition of the building is expected to remain for four years until the next full scaffolding and reinspection.”

The trust has asked the government for £200m of funding to construct a new purpose-built care centre for Wycombe.

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