Advertisement

£2.7 billion needed to fix backlog of repairs to dilapidated London hospitals

 (Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust)
(Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust)

The full extent of repairs needed to dilapidated buildings and equipment at NHS hospitals was laid bare on Friday, with the cost to repair and replace them hitting £10 billion for the first time.

Data from NHS Digital reveals the cost has doubled from £4.7 billion a decade ago, and a total of £2.7 billion would be needed to fix the huge backlog of repairs to London hospitals alone.

In the capital, £800 million is needed to fix the backlog in the most serious “high risk” defects, those which urgently need fixing to prevent catastrophic failure, major disruption to clinical services or safety failings resulting in serious injury. Charing Cross Hospital had the largest “high risk” catalogue of repairs in the country at £155 million, closely followed by St Mary’s Hospital on £126 million and Hammersmith Hospital on £68 million.

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 are the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Woolwich (£59 million), The Hillingdon Hospital (£53 million) and Northwick Park and St Mark’s Hospital (£40 million). About £1.8 billion would be needed to fix “high risk” repairs across England.

Dr Ruth Charlton, chief medical officer for Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust, that runs two busy general hospitals, St Helier Hospital in south London and Epsom Hospital in Surrey, said that her staff provided “excellent care” but the trust’s “ageing estate was not fit for purpose”. Some buildings predate the NHS itself.

St Helier Hospital’s site was described as “not fit for purpose” (Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust)
St Helier Hospital’s site was described as “not fit for purpose” (Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust)

“We had to move one of the walls because the foundations were sinking and gaps were appearing in the walls,” she told the Standard. “We have also had to replace windows at risk of falling out. In some areas, we don’t even have enough space around beds to meet infection, prevention and control standards.

“Only last week we had to vacate parts of St Helier Hospital due to flooding and leaks, and there are buckets in our corridors to catch rainwater.”

In the summer, Dr Charlton said that hot temperatures had created “stifling” conditions in the building.

“We did everything we could with portable fans and ice lollies but these are not conditions our patients and staff should have to tolerate,” she added.

Flooding and leaks have forced staff and patients to evacuate parts of the south London hospital (Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust)
Flooding and leaks have forced staff and patients to evacuate parts of the south London hospital (Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust)

The Government had pledged 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 in Whipps Cross has also been held up due to delays in funding from central Government.

Dr Charlton said that patients and staff “cannot afford to wait any longer”.

“Delays will have tangible financial implications — including rising building costs and inflation — and that’s coupled with the cost of maintaining our current estate,” she said.

“Staff are working in challenging conditions in crumbling, cramped buildings. They are doing the best they can and delivering safe and effective care, but they — and our patients — deserve better.”

One of St Helier’s walls had to be moved as the foundations were sinking, and some windows at risk of falling out were replaced (Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust)
One of St Helier’s walls had to be moved as the foundations were sinking, and some windows at risk of falling out were replaced (Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust)

Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive of NHS Providers, said that the condition of NHS buildings were getting worse, piling up the cost of trying to patch up creaking buildings.

She said: “Without proper funding, leaky roofs and ceilings, obsolete equipment and ageing IT won't get fixed or replaced, compromising quality of care”.

A Department for Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We are investing record amounts to upgrade and modernise NHS buildings so staff have the facilities needed to provide world-class care for patients, including £4 billion this year and £12 billion over the next three years.

“On top of this, we will deliver 40 new hospitals by 2030 as part of the biggest hospital building programme in a generation, as well as over 70 hospital upgrades across England.”