Published: 00:01, 07 November 2018
| Updated: 08:17, 07 November 2018
by Ed McConnell and Harriet Clugston, RADAR data reporter
Patients at Medway Maritime are being put at risk due to £33 million of outstanding repairs, according to NHS figures.
Data released by NHS Digital reveals "catastrophic failures" could occur unless the mammoth backlog is addressed.
Medway NHS Foundation Trust's total bill for outstanding repairs is £58.1m, with more than half of those classified as "high risk".
But due to spending cuts it only spent £1.7m trying to fix issues last year.
If "high risk" repairs aren't dealt with they could cause "catastrophic failure, major disruption to clinical services or deficiencies in safety liable to cause serious injury and prosecution".
Examples of maintenance required could include upgrading software on medical equipment, maintaining generators and boilers, and ensuring the structural integrity of buildings.
“Continued underinvestment has left some hospitals delivering healthcare in buildings that are quite literally falling apart." — King's Fund health think tank
According to the data, which covers the year to March, problems with the trust's infrastructure led to two incidents where patients were either harmed or put at risk of harm.
The repair bill was 16% up on the previous year and in the past five years has risen by 127%. At the end of 2013/14 the high risk repair bill stood at just £438,000.
The repair bill across England reached a record £6 billion at the end of March, having risen by £2 bn since 2011.
The NHS has a capital funding budget which covers repairs but over the last four years the Department of Health has transferred money from that pot into the one for day-to-day spending.
Chief analyst at independent health think tank the King’s Fund Siva Anandaciva added: “Continued underinvestment has left some hospitals delivering healthcare in buildings that are quite literally falling apart.
“Deteriorating facilities and unreliable equipment can expose staff and patients to increasing safety risks, and make NHS services less productive as operations and appointments may be cancelled at short notice.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “Investment to tackle this maintenance work has increased by 25% from £324 million in 2016-17 to £404 million in 2017-18 to help trusts maintain their estates and invest in new facilities.
“We want patients to continue to receive world-class care in world-class facilities, which is why our long-term plan for the NHS will boost funding by £20.5 billion a year extra by 2023/24.
"We are also investing £3.9 billion into the NHS to help transform and modernise buildings, and improve patient care in hospitals and communities.”
The trust's director of estates and facilities Gary Lupton said: “In common with most trusts across the country, and particularly those who have older buildings as part of their estate, we have a certain amount of outstanding maintenance work that needs to be undertaken. In all cases, we carefully prioritise the maintenance work we undertake to ensure it delivers the maximum benefit to patients and fully safeguards their wellbeing.
“In those instances where full works can’t be completed straight away, we will make sure intermediate steps are taken to keep patients safe and ensure care continues to be provided effectively until we can make the necessary full repairs.
“Last year we recorded two estates and facilities related incidents, which I am pleased to say put us in the lowest third of trusts in England. These two incidents, which related to dust in one of our ventilation systems and the malfunctioning of a lift, did not cause any patient harm but we have fully investigated them so we can take steps to ensure that they do not happen again.”
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