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Crumbling hospital buildings in east Kent need £28m for urgent repairs

A hospitals trust needs to carry out £28.3m worth of urgent repairs if it is to prevent "catastrophic" failures and major disruption to clinical services.

The total cost of bringing buildings and equipment run by the East Kent Hospitals Trust up to scratch would be £71.7m, data from NHS Digital shows.

Examples of the work needed at the trust, which runs the Kent and Canterbury, William Harvey and QEQM hospitals, includes measures to ensure buildings are structurally sound, generator and boiler maintenance, and upgrading software on medical equipment.

Costs to eradicate the trust's repairs backlog
Costs to eradicate the trust's repairs backlog

Canterbury's hospital, which was built in 1937, is sitting on an £8.1m backlog of 'high-risk' repairs, while the cost of eradicating the urgent backlog at Ashford's William Harvey is £9.5m and £10.6m for Margate's QEQM.

The NHS defines 'high-risk' repairs as those which have the potential to cause "catastrophic failure, major disruption to clinical services or deficiencies in safety liable to cause serious injury and prosecution" if not dealt with immediately.

The data shows despite East Kent Hospitals spending £2.2m on trying to reduce its backlog last year, infrastructure problems led to 214 incidents where patients were either harmed or put at risk of harm.

The cost of eradicating the trust's high-risk backlog stood at £5.5m in 2013-14, representing a four-fold increase of £23m in four years.

The William Harvey Hospital in Ashford
The William Harvey Hospital in Ashford

NHS Providers, which represents trusts across the health service, says years of financial pressures and the raiding of capital funds to cover day-to-day spending has left hospital managers struggling to deal with soaring repair bills.

Ken Rogers, chair of Concern for Health in East Kent, says the figures strengthen the case for a new state-of-the-art hospital to be built in Canterbury.

"The solution is in the hands of the consultation," he said.

"Money needs to be invested in a new hospital for Canterbury, as well as modernising the QEQM and the William Harvey for patients that will still go there and services that will still be there.

"Investing money in new buildings is the right way to go."

The QEQM hospital
The QEQM hospital

A spokesman for East Kent Hospitals says the trust has recently secured £6.4m for new observation wards for emergency departments at the William Harvey and QEQM hospitals.

"The maintenance of buildings and estate is a common issue for many NHS organisations in keeping them up to date to meet the demands of modern healthcare delivery, especially considering some of our estate dates back to the 1930s," he said.

"Our hospitals operate an ongoing maintenance programme to keep facilities in the best possible condition for patients, staff and visitors.

"However, we are aware that there are a number of areas that we know need redeveloping and investing in for the future.

"We always ensure that the safety of services is maintained at all sites."

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