The cost of fixing significant risks has doubled in the space of two years, an analysis found
“What is efficient about a mental health trust having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds every year to repair outdated buildings? Mental health trusts need capital funding, allocated quickly, fairly and transparently, for more modern facilities, so that patients receive care in the right environment.” Saffron Cordery, interim CEO, NHS Providers
Mental health facilities need £677m worth of repairs to address collapsing roofs, sewerage problems and other issues, according to the Independent.
An analysis of the government’s programme to build 40 hospitals, seen by the newspaper, shows that it has failed in its promise of parity for mental health services.
Data analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that the cost of fixing “high and significant” risks in mental health and learning disability hospitals has soared from £92m in 2019-20 to £186m in 2021-22. “High and significant” risks are ones that must be fixed in order to avoid “catastrophic” failure or safety problems that could result in serious injury. Dr Adrian James, president of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said mental health services should not be left behind as the government updates NHS infrastructure: “Many of the buildings used to deliver mental healthcare in England are not fit for purpose, posing serious challenges to those who receive treatment and those who work in those facilities.”
The analysis also found that one-third of rooms on mental health wards do not have ensuite bathrooms.
Saffron Cordery, interim chief executive at NHS Providers, told the paper: “An [overall] £677m maintenance backlog across mental health trusts is an unwelcome extra burden on overstretched services struggling with an all-time high 1.8 million people in contact with them.”
“What is efficient about a mental health trust having to spend hundreds of thousands of pounds every year to repair outdated buildings? Mental health trusts need capital funding, allocated quickly, fairly and transparently, for more modern facilities, so that patients receive care in the right environment.”
She said that patients and staff are at risk because so many buildings aren’t fit for purpose, and warned that the situation will get worse until mental health trusts receive the capital funding they need.
The Independent cited the example of Bradford District Care Foundation Trust, where the building problems are driving up the number of out-of-area placements. These include sewerage problems, a lack of ensuite wards, male patient rooms overlooking female recreation areas, and ward temperature problems that have led to 95 call-outs in a year.
Dr Sarfaraz Shora, deputy medical director and consultant psychiatrist for the trust said patients were “distressed” about the ward environments adding: “We had sewage in the ward, and it was so distressing for the patients but also for the staff. We have 21 unwell patients who have to share the bathroom. In the current times, it is unheard of that somebody who’s so distressed has to share a bathroom.”
In 2019, the Conservative Party promised “parity of esteem” for mental health services in the NHS. Judging from this analysis by the Royal College of Psychiatrists, this is still very far from being achieved. Stories of sewerage problems and collapsing roofs are very concerning. Although there has been a lot of focus – rightly – on the workforce shortages in NHS mental services, infrastructure is also important. Patients cannot be expected to recover if the building in which they are staying is unsafe. We would like to see the government deliver on its promise to make sure that patients receiving mental health treatment have access to facilities of the same standard as patients with physical health problems.