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Footage reveals leaks and holes in the ceiling at south London hospital

Alarming footage reveals broken lifts, leaks, sinking floors, holes in the ceiling and cracked walls at a south London hospital.

Doctors warned patient safety is being put at risk by the state of crumbling NHS hospitals which have fallen into potentially dangerous disrepair.

According to an ITV News investigation, the grim conditions at St Helier Hospital, Epsom were laid bare.

Clips released by the broadcaster show “leaks so severe they flood and close corridors”, maternity staff working under sheets full of water and broken doors propped open by waste bins.

Beacon Ward, dating back to the 1930s, was condemned last year after the floors began to collapse and walls cracked.

In November, another area leaked so badly that it flooded, leaving a trail of damage and destruction.

A room meant to be used as an intensive care unit is instead storing equipment because the ventilation system no longer works and cannot be replaced.

Senior staff have said the conditions are “not suitable” for patients to be treated in.

Consultant Doctor Pauline Swift told ITV News during a visit to St Helier Hospital: “I feel sometimes like the NHS is just held together with new licks of paint and plywood.

"There are leaks, a lot of leaks. Paint is peeling off the walls. You can see it with your own two eyes."

Pauline Swift and ITV News reporter at St Helier Hospital in Epsom (ITV News)
Pauline Swift and ITV News reporter at St Helier Hospital in Epsom (ITV News)

“I think what I worry about is that our patients are not normalised to this, and they come in then and wonder what sort of care are they going to receive.

“But I can assure you that they receive first class kidney care here but just in a very poor estate.

"The conditions that we give the care in are not suitable - not now, not ever and nor should they be.”

Half of the 87 hospital trusts in England that responded to a Freedom of Information request had at least one unresolved structural or maintenance issue as of October 2022.

One doctor told ITV News conditions are so poor they always hope “something catastrophic” doesn’t happen.

St Helier Hospital was among trusts former Prime Minister Boris Johnson vowed would receive funding as part of his £3.7billion pledge to build 40 “new” hospitals across England by 2030.

Epsom and St Helier University Hospitals Trust said the government had confirmed hundreds of millions of pounds to develop a new specialist emergency care hospital, which was expected to open in 2025.

But the redevelopment of St Helier Hospital, which includes an upgrade to existing facilities, has been hit with delays.

James Blythe, the trust’s managing director, said the new hospital will not be built until 2027 at the earliest.

St Helier Hospital has been plagued by leaks and cracked walls (ITV News)
St Helier Hospital has been plagued by leaks and cracked walls (ITV News)

In the Commons on Wednesday at Prime Minister's Questions, Rishi Sunak was asked about the investigation alongside a report by the Observer which claimed only a quarter of the 40 hospitals that were at the heart of Boris Johnson's 2019 general election manifesto have secured full planning permission.

Mr Sunak said the Government is still committed to building the 40 new hospitals, and when asked in particular about developments in the South West, he said "everything is on track".

Mr Sunak said he was proud the Government is investing "record sums" into the NHS and its capital, adding: "Not just going on upgrading almost 100 hospitals, developing 40 large-scale developments, as the honourable gentleman knows, but also investing in more scanners, more ambulances across the board, so we can deliver vital care to people."

As part of the ITV investigation Audiologist Sarah Hills, 61, documented her time as a patient at Croydon University Hospital while having emergency surgery for a kidney operation in November.

She recorded dirty walls, a broken radiator and a tree growing through a toilet window.

“The first thing you felt was how cold it was,” said Ms Hills, who used to work at the hospital in the 1980s.

“There was no heating whatsoever coming out of any of the radiators on the ward. My nose was freezing and it was bitter.”

Ms Hills said her “heart bled” for the staff working in such poor conditions, considering that the building around them was “literally crumbling”.

Croydon Health Services NHS Trust told the Standard: “This ward was used temporarily to increase the number of beds available to maintain safe care when demand was exceptionally high this winter, and we would once again like to apologise to Ms Hills.

“The care and comfort of our patients is our highest concern and we have ambitious plans to transform our estate, parts of which were built in the 1930s.

“As soon as we were made aware, we provided extra pillows and blankets and have since installed new double-glazed windows and heating on the ward.”

It came on the day maternity services at Croydon University Hospital were given an improved rating of ‘good’ for safety following an inspection by the Care Quality Commission.

In a new report, care for pregnant women and new mothers was rate highly on every measure as part of a national review to assess the quality of maternity care available.