Crumbling hospitals cause over 100 care disruptions a week, NHS figures show | Hospitals

Hospitals in England are being hit with disruptions to patients’ care more than 100 times every week because of fires, leaks and problems created by outdated buildings, NHS figures reveal.

There have been 27,545 “clinical service incidents” over the past five years – an average of 106 a week – data compiled by the House of Commons library shows.

They are incidents the NHS says were “caused by estates and infrastructure failure related to critical infrastructure risk” and are linked to the service’s massive backlog of maintenance, the bill for which has soared to £11.6bn. All the incidents led to “clinical services being delayed, cancelled or otherwise interfered with” for at least five patients for a minimum of 30 minutes.

That means the 27,545 incidents between 2018-19 and 2022-23 disrupted the care of at least 137,725 patients, according to an analysis of NHS data by the Commons library commissioned by Ed Davey, the leader of the Liberal Democrats.

“These findings are shocking but sadly not surprising, given the dilapidated, and in some cases dangerous, state of so many NHS facilities,” said Saffron Cordery, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents health service trusts.

The “unacceptable impact on patients” should spur ministers into increasing the NHS’s capital budget so trusts can urgently overhaul their estates, she said.

She added that, besides disrupting care, the poor state of many NHS facilities was also leaving patients at risk and reducing their chances of recovering from their illness. “There are many patients in hospital, mental health and community settings who have received care but whose recovery is hampered by deteriorating environments that are neither safe nor therapeutic,” she said.

Essex partnership mental health trust had the most incidents over the five years – 1,230 – followed by the North East London trust with 1,022.

More than 5,000 of the incidents occurred at the 34 NHS trusts where “40 new hospitals” are due to be built, which Boris Johnson promised back in 2019. Progress towards fulfilling that pledge has been slow and caused huge frustration among NHS bosses.

Among those 34 trusts, the Princess Alexandra hospital in Harlow, Essex, had the most disruptions, with 1,049, followed by Nottingham university hospitals trust with 818.

The Princess Alexandra has had at least 40 leaks of raw sewage in recent years, with the smell leaving staff feeling nauseous and too sick to work.

“It is shocking that so many patients are seeing their care impacted by crumbling NHS infrastructure in the very areas promised a new hospital by the Conservatives,” said Davey. “No patients or staff should have to be treated in hospital buildings with leaking roofs and floors at risk of collapse. This Conservative government has allowed our hospitals to fall into a disgraceful state of disrepair and patients and staff are paying the price.”

The repeated disruption at the “40 new hospitals” trusts shows that using capital funding to help pay the NHS’s running costs, as has happened over the past decade, had been shortsighted, said Thea Stein, the chief executive of the Nuffield Trust thinktank and, until last year, the boss of the mental health and community services trust in Leeds.

“That a significant number of safety incidents have impacted the care patients receive at these sites promised new hospital buildings or upgrades, is clear evidence of the urgent need to upgrade our ageing NHS estate and reverse the ill-judged raids on cash earmarked for buildings and equipment in order to cover the day-to-day bills,” she said.

The Department of Health and Social Care did not respond directly to the figures showing widespread disruption.

A spokesperson said: “We have invested significant sums to upgrade and modernise NHS buildings so staff have the facilities needed to provide world-class care for patients, including £4.2bn this financial year. Trusts are responsible for prioritising this funding to maintain and refurbish their premises, including the renewal and replacement of equipment.”

The spokesperson said the “40 new hospitals” programme had already delivered four new hospitals, with another due to open soon and 17 more under way.

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