The full extent of repairs needed to dilapidated buildings and equipment at NHS hospitals was laid out on Friday, with the cost to repair and replace them hitting £10bn for the first time.
Data from NHS Digital reveals that the cost has doubled from £4.7bn a decade ago, and a total of £2.7bn would be needed to fix the huge backlog of repairs in London hospitals alone.
In the capital, £800m is needed to fix the backlog of the most serious ‘high risk’ defects – those that need urgent repair to prevent catastrophic failures, major disruptions to clinical services or safety lapses resulting in serious injuries. Charing Cross Hospital had the largest catalog of “high risk” repairs in the country at £155m, closely followed by St Mary’s Hospital at £126m and Hammersmith Hospital at £68m.
All three are run by the same hospital trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust.
Other London hospitals with some of the largest ‘high risk’ building repairs needed in the country include Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich (£59m), The Hillingdon Hospital (£53m) and Northwick Park and St Mark’s Hospital (£40 million). Around £1.8bn would be needed to repair “high risk” repairs across England.
Dr Ruth Charlton, medical director of Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust, which runs two very busy general hospitals, St Helier’s Hospital in south London and Epsom Hospital in Surrey, said her staff provided “excellent care”. , but that the “aging heritage of the foundation was unfit for purpose”. Some buildings predate the NHS itself.
“We had to move one of the walls because the foundation was sagging and holes were appearing in the walls,” he told the Standard. “We have also had to change windows with the risk of falling. In some areas, we don’t even have enough space around the beds to meet infection prevention and control standards.
“Just last week we had to evacuate parts of St Helier’s Hospital due to flooding and leaks, and there are buckets in our corridors to catch rainwater.”
In the summer, Dr. Charlton said that high temperatures had created “suffocating” conditions in the building.
“We did all we could with portable fans and ice pops, but these are not conditions that our patients and staff should tolerate,” he added.
The Government had promised to build a new hospital in Sutton to open in 2025, but the trust confirmed in July that the project would be delayed by at least two years. Work on a new hospital at Whipps Cross has also been withheld due to delays in central government funding.
Dr Charlton said patients and staff “cannot afford to wait any longer”.
“Delays will have tangible financial implications, including increased construction costs and inflation, and that adds to the cost of maintaining our current heritage,” he said.
“Staff are working in challenging conditions in dilapidated and overcrowded buildings. They are doing the best they can and providing safe and effective care, but they, and our patients, deserve better.”
Saffron Cordery, acting chief executive of NHS Providers, said the condition of NHS buildings was worsening, mounting the cost of trying to repair creaking buildings.
She said: “Without proper funding, leaky roofs and ceilings, outdated equipment and outdated IT will not be repaired or replaced, compromising quality of care.”
A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We are investing record amounts to upgrade and modernize NHS buildings so staff have the facilities they need to deliver first-class care for patients, including £4bn this year and £12 billion over the next three years.
“In addition to this, we will deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030 as part of the largest hospital building program in a generation, as well as over 70 hospital upgrades across England.”