More than 2,000 NHS buildings in England older than NHS, figures show

<span>Data shows that 34 of 211 NHS trusts in England have at least one in four buildings pre-dating 1948, when the service was founded. </span><span>Photograph: Paul Slater/Alamy</span>
Data shows that 34 of 211 NHS trusts in England have at least one in four buildings pre-dating 1948, when the service was founded. Photograph: Paul Slater/Alamy

Millions of patients are being put at risk in crumbling hospitals that are unfit for purpose, MPs have said, as figures reveal more than 2,000 NHS buildings are older than the health service itself.

Health bosses have repeatedly warned ministers of the urgent need to plough cash into replacing rundown buildings in order to protect the safety of patients and staff. The maintenance backlog has risen to £11.6bn in England.

Now analysis of NHS Digital data has found that at 34 out of 211 NHS trusts in England at least one in four buildings have been standing since before 1948, the year the NHS was founded.

Sewage leaking from sinks on to wards are among the issues affecting more than 2,000 buildings that predate the health service. Last month it was reported that the ceiling of an intensive care ward collapsed on to a patient on life support and a falling lift broke a doctor’s leg. One hospital is said to have been using its intensive care unit as a storeroom because it deemed it unsafe for patients.

In 2020, Tory ministers promised 40 new hospitals as part of a new buildings programme, but the National Audit Office has discovered that the scheme will not be delivered by 2030 as was pledged.

The Liberal Democrats’ health and social care spokesperson, Daisy Cooper, described the situation as a “national scandal”, with millions of people “treated in old and crumbling hospitals that are no longer fit for purpose”.

“Patients and staff deserve the dignity of safe, modern and clean hospitals,” Cooper said. “But instead this government has shamefully chosen to raid capital budgets for fixing crumbling buildings to plug the gap in day-to-day costs, while hospitals are literally falling apart.

“Rishi Sunak needs to get a grip and announce a plan to fix our crumbling hospital buildings. Patients should not have to pay the price for this Conservative government’s chronic neglect of the health service.”

The head of NHS Providers, which represents health trusts, said the safety of patients and staff was at risk, with too many NHS buildings “in a very bad way”.

Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The situation is just getting worse year after year. The safety of patients and staff is at risk. NHS trusts have an £11bn-plus list of essential repairs waiting to be done and the backlog is mounting at an alarming rate.

“The eye-watering cost of trying to keep creaking buildings and out-of-date facilities going is soaring. To be properly equipped to give people first-class care, the NHS needs safe, 21st-century buildings and facilities.”

The Guardian revealed last week that thousands of pests including rats, cockroaches and bedbugs were being found in NHS hospitals every year.

Hospital bosses are having to spend millions of pounds on pest control after discovering lice, flies and rodents in children’s wards, breast clinics, maternity units, A&E departments and kitchens.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We’re investing record sums to upgrade and modernise NHS buildings, with £4.2bn invested last year alone, which has helped us achieve the biggest five-month fall in waiting lists in the past 10 years.

“This is on top of expected investment of over £20bn for the New Hospital Programme – with four hospitals already open and another four due to follow this financial year and a further £1.7bn for more than 70 hospital upgrades.”