St Mary’s Hospital has 20 'black alert' bed shortages

Ross Lydall

One of London’s biggest hospitals ran out of beds on 20 occasions during the last six months after a series of disasters with its crumbling buildings.

Highest-level “black alerts” were declared at St Mary’s, in Paddington, after part of the first floor and a ceiling collapsed in the 147-year-old Cambridge wing, resulting in the loss of 31 beds until December.

The problems have also forced the closure of St Mary’s birth centre until mid-November, requiring almost 100 women to give birth either on a labour ward at St Mary’s or at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea hospital, Acton. Westminster council planners will meet tonight to decide whether to approve the first stage of the hospital’s redevelopment. Some neighbours have objected.

Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust wants to build a £162 million nine-storey outpatients department on the “triangle” site at the junction of Praed Street and South Wharf Road.

Council planners “fully support” the proposal, saying the hospital’s needs provide “significant justification and public benefit” to outweigh objections about loss of daylight from 69 residents. Imperial chief executive Ian Dalton said the trust was spending £16 million a year across its five hospitals before the problems at Cambridge wing, which will cost £1 million to fix. In a board report, he said: “The trust has one of the largest backlog building maintenance programmes in the NHS.”

He added that St Mary’s had the most maintenance issues but all five hospital estates had “significant problems”. The problems at St Mary’s have caused major logistical problems in moving patients, equipment and supplies between hospital buildings and were a factor in the trust failing to hit the four-hour A&E target last month.

A flood on Paterson wing, which houses the surgical innovation unit, forced the wing’s closure for a fortnight and the cancellation of a “small number” of operations. The Jefferiss wing was flooded on a separate occasion. @RossLydall

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