Standards of ventilation in hospitals: FOI release

Information request and response under the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002

Information requested

"I am writing to ask for information I believe you hold. Please outline:

(1) Which standards are health boards in Scotland required to comply with in regards to ventilation in staff and patient areas? Please advise where these standards are described / stated.

(2) Please state the latest rate of compliance with these standards in percentages for each health board.

(3) Please advise what funding has been made available to improve rates of compliance.

(4) Please also describe the estimated cost of reaching full compliance across all relevant estates and break this down be board."


The hyperlink below will direct you to the Building Standards technical handbook 2017: non-domestic buildings. This outlines the relevant legislative and regulatory requirements with which all non-domestic buildings, including NHS Scotland buildings, are required to comply with.

Building Standards technical handbook 2017: non-domestic buildings - (

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested. The reasons why we don't have the information are explained point by point below.

(1) While NHS-specific guidance on ventilation exists, there is no formal requirement for NHS Boards to comply with this guidance. Historically, the production of guidance was devolved from government to the NHS in 1993, so the NHS Boards create the guidance, using Health Facilities Scotland to assist them in delivering suitable facilities. The guidance, in some respects, is a health specific means to compliance with legislative and regulatory requirements. It is acknowledged that there may be other ways to deliver suitable facilities, and as such, the guidance is there to support decision making by appropriately qualified and experienced staff at boards. There may be a contractual requirement to follow guidance, which individual Boards may be able to advise on. While this guidance does not constitute standards that health Boards are required to comply with, as you have requested, it is also enclosed in this response.

(2) Compliance with legal requirements is often very complex and open to a degree of judgement. Additionally, ventilation systems are reliant on other systems with their own compliance criteria, such as electrical and IT systems. For these reasons, compliance cannot realistically be expressed as a percentage. The information you have requested is therefore not held by the Scottish Government.

(3) The model of funding for NHS Boards does not function in such a way that funding made available to improve ventilation compliance can be expressed as a distinct figure. The total funds available to NHS Scotland are determined during the Spending Review process. A carefully developed formula then allocates a set amount on a basis that is fair and equitable, and reflects the relative need of each Health Board. It is then up to Boards to decide how to spend their allocation in a way that best meets the needs of their resident population. Boards can also request additional funding from the Scottish Government for specific projects or identified needs. This system ensures that Boards can use knowledge of their areas of responsibility to deploy resources to best meet local needs, while still ensuring strong oversight and governance from the Government centrally. As such, the allocation of funding is responsive to the needs of Boards and there is no set amount made available specifically for improving rates of compliance with ventilation standards. The information you have requested is therefore not held centrally by the Scottish Government.

(4) As discussed above, compliance and the use of funding for ventilation is a matter delegated to individual NHS Boards who can use their local expertise to deploy resources most effectively. Additionally, because ventilation systems are heavily integrated into other systems and are a function of the design and operation of a building, it is often not possible to clearly separate the costs of ventilation from those of other aspects a building project more generally. Windows, for instance, are a key factor in determining levels of natural ventilation, but are also essential for providing light and maintaining the thermal insulation of a building.

Therefore, in an NHS hospital renovation project that brings a building into compliance with standards and guidance, there would not necessarily be any objective method of apportioning the cost of new windows between the ventilation, lighting, and insulation functions, and thus no objective way of determining the cost of compliance with ventilation standards. Similarly, doors, building and room layouts, fire safety measures, electrical infrastructure, and the flow of people through a building all have an effect on ventilation, but may not have a clearly identifiable ventilation cost component. As such, while the Scottish Government has extensive data on expected maintenance spending and planned spending on major refurbishment and renovation projects, estimates of reaching compliance with ventilation standards specifically are not held centrally. However, the estimates you have requested may be available from individual NHS Scotland Boards. You may wish to contact them directly.

This is a formal notice under section 17(1) of FOISA that the Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

FOI - 202200269234 - Information Released - Annex A
FOI - 202200269234 - Information Released - Annex B


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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