Last year saw nearly 7,000 clinical incidents caused by failings in infrastructure or estates
“A multi-year settlement would allow the NHS to increase physical and diagnostic capacity, accelerate digital transformation, and reconfigure hospitals to deal with future waves of Covid-19.” Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers
Problems with hospital buildings are having a detrimental effect on patient care, according to a report in HSJ.
The report, based on figures for England published by NHS Digital, says there has been an increase in the number of infrastructure failures, as well as an increase in the cost of repairing outdated parts of the NHS estate.
In 2021, there were nearly 7,000 “clinical service incidents caused by estates and infrastructure failure,” an increase of 15% on the previous year. In 2016-17, there were only 2,338 such incidents.
Clinical service incidents are defined as infrastructure failures that have interfered with clinical services in some way. These could be things like power outages, building defects, a lack of appropriate physical facilities or a shortfall of staff such as porters.
According to the NHS Digital report, the total costs of running the NHS estate in 2020/21 were £10.2bn, an increase of 4.8% on the previous year. The total cost of eradicating the backlog was £9.2bn, a 2.2% increase on the previous year. This is a measure, the report says “of how much would need to be invested to restore a building to a certain state based on a state of assessed risk criteria” and is work that should already have taken place.
Of the £9.2bn repair backlog, £1.57bn relates to “high risk” estate, defined as needing “urgent priority” to prevent “catastrophic failure, major disruption to clinical services, or deficiencies” in safety which are “liable to cause serious injury and/or prosecution”.
The three trusts with the highest number of clinical service incidents caused by infrastructure failure were Essex Partnership University NHS Foundation Trust (459), University Hospitals Sussex Foundation Trust (434) and South West London and St George’s Mental Health NHS Trust (358).
Last December, the government issued £600m capital funding, spread across 178 trusts, to deal with urgent maintenance issues, to be completed by March 2021.
Saffron Cordery, deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, described the rising maintenance backlog as “alarming” and told HSJ: “A multi-year settlement would allow the NHS to increase physical and diagnostic capacity, accelerate digital transformation, and reconfigure hospitals to deal with future waves of Covid-19.”
She urged the government to provide the NHS with the necessary capital in its upcoming three-year spending review.
The NHS Confederation, meanwhile, is calling on the government to increase the Department of Health and Social Care’s total capital budget to £10.3bn by 2024-25.