Representing estates and facilities professionals operating within the  



Patients at risk as backlog maintenance risk soars

The Labour Party has published figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request, to emphasise the extent of the backlog maintenance problem facing the NHS. The FOI asked about high risk maintenance backlog and 143 of England’s 229 acute, community and mental health Trusts responded.


Labour’s Shadow Health Minister, Justin Madders MP is warning of a funding crisis as Labour reports NHS Trusts are dealing with hundreds of incidents every year relating to leaking roofs, blocked sewage pipes and pest control, some of which are already affecting patient care.


Among the findings are:


* 71% of Trusts have experienced leaking or broken roofs between 2015 and 2017, with at least 3,500 separate incidents declared during that time


* 60% of Trusts reported experiencing broken or leaking sewage pies between 2015 and 2017, with at least 678 separate incidents declared during that time


* 42 Trusts gave details of outstanding repair bills reporting £13 million for outstanding fire maintenance and £4.4 million for roof repairs.


Among the specific incidents reported is a leaking roof in an X-ray unit that caused a “delay in possible cancer diagnosis.”


Pest control is also a significant issue, with 70% of Trusts reporting calls relating to rodents, 73% reporting calls relating to ants and 66% reporting calls relating to wasps.


Justin Madders said: “Eight years of chronic underfunding of the NHS by this Conservative Government is having a huge impact on staff and patient safety. With the Government diverting resources from maintenance budgets to keep everyday services running, vital repairs are not being carried out, creating unsafe work environments which are already disrupting patient care.


“These latest figures reveal how serious the funding crisis has become, with millions of pounds worth of work needed across the NHS. The Government urgently needs to take action to tackle these dangerous conditions. 


“The safety of patients and our hardworking NHS staff is at risk in hospitals with leaking roofs, broken sewage pipes and ageing fire safety infrastructure. There is now an urgent need for greater NHS funding – ministers must take action to make our NHS safe.”


In a statement to the BBC, a spokesman from the Department of Health and Social Care said: “We want patients to receive world-class care in world-class facilities and in fact we recently announced one of the largest infrastructure investments in NHS history – £760 million for major projects including new buildings, wards and beds – so these claims are simply misleading.


However, in the revalidated ERIC data for 2016/17, the total cost to eradicate backlog maintenance was reported at £5.5 billion, an increase of 11.5% on that reported in 2015/16. 


Saffron Cordery, Deputy Chief Executive of NHS Providers expressed concern about funding levels, saying: “In recent years, funding to maintain and develop NHS buildings and equipment has been diverted increasingly into dealing with day to day pressures. In 2016/17 for example, this amounted to £1.2 billion, more than 20% of the capital budget.”


Labour claims the government has used £3.8 billion from NHS capital budgets over the past four years to plug holes in revenue budgets. 


This approach, Cordery said, is simply storing up problems for the future. "Not only are we seeing a growing maintenance backlog, but the proportion deemed ‘high’ and ‘significant’ risk has also been rising year by year. This increases the likelihood of disruption and delays, and may pose a risk to patient safety.


"Last year’s cyber attack was a further reminder of the importance of ensuring that NHS equipment, including IT, is up-to-date.


"We welcomed the recognition by the government of the need to upgrade estates and capital, in its response to last year’s Naylor report. But we are still concerned that the funding announced so far isn’t enough.


"This will be a key priority that must be addressed in establishing the long term sustainable funding for health and social care to which the government is now committed."