Patient safety at risk as urgent NHS repairs ignored

Patients are being put in danger because of a backlog of hundreds of millions of pounds of urgent repairs at hospitals.

More than half of hospital trusts have a backlog of repairs which the NHS says need to be urgently completed to ensure patient safety.

The NHS defines the work is so pressing that it “must be addressed with urgent priority in order to prevent catastrophic failure, major disruption to clinical services or deficiencies in safety liable to cause serious injury and/or prosecution”.

Yet despite the urgency of the work, the new figures show that the level of outstanding urgent repairs rose last year, by £11 million to £310 million.

Crumbling buildings and failings in the infrastructure of hospitals have been repeatedly linked to risks to patient safety.

Last year, the official investigation into Britain’s deadliest outbreak of the infection Clostridium Difficile, which killed more than 90 patients at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals cited its high maintenance backlog as a contributing factor in the spread of the disease.

The figures obtained by the Conservatives reveal that more than 120 of England’s 210 hospital trusts admitted to a backlog of urgent repairs in the financial year which ended in April 2008.

Imperial College Healthcare trust, which runs Hammersmith and St Marys Hospitals, had an urgent repair backlog of £27 million pounds, a figure which was almost matched by the bill at Guys and St Thomas foundation trust. Hospitals in North West London, Worthing and Southlands and Nottingham also reported an urgent backlog of more than £10 million.

Eight years ago, the Government pledged to reduce the total NHS maintenance bill, which then stood at £3.1 billion, by one quarter.

The new figures show in fact the total bill has soared to more than £4 billion, including a 29 per cent increase in the last two years.

The only category of repairs where the bill fell during 2007/2008 was among those defined as carrying the lowest risk to patients and services.

Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley described the findings as “very disturbing”. He said: “Over the last eight years the Government has done nothing to address this problem and things are going from bad to worse. The Government has no excuse for needlessly putting patients and NHS staff at risk like this.”

Mr Lansley said the Government could not pretend it was unaware of the issue, since hospitals reported their figures to the Department of Health each year.


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