Patients pay the price for mounting NHS backlog bill

17 October 2019

NHS trusts are warning that the growing NHS maintenance backlog bill is having a real, immediate and tangible impact on patients.

New figures today from NHS Digital show that despite trusts increasing spending on buildings and equipment, the number of clinical service incidents has increased by 25% over the last year. Whilst we acknowledge the definition for clinical service incidents is broader this year, the rise reflects what trusts are telling us about how estate issues can have a direct impact on patient care and safety. These include delays to patients starting treatment, power failures, sewage blockages and the risk of fires.

In one example a serious power failure at a trust led to the closure of almost all clinical services for 8 hours. As a result 1,788 outpatients appointments and 99 elective procedures were cancelled.

Alongside this the 2018/19 Estates Return Information Collection (ERIC) reveals that the total backlog maintenance has increased from £5.9bn to £6.5bn in the last year.

Responding to the latest ERIC data, the deputy chief executive of NHS Providers, Saffron Cordery said:

"These figures are deeply disturbing. NHS backlog maintenance bills have climbed to record levels and we’ve seen a really worrying jump in clinical safety incidents. Patients are now paying the price for years of capital neglect, and the scale of the problem is gathering pace

 

These figures are deeply disturbing. NHS backlog maintenance bills have climbed to record levels and we’ve seen a really worrying jump in clinical safety incidents. Patients are now paying the price for years of capital neglect, and the scale of the problem is gathering pace.

Saffron Cordery    Deputy Chief Executive


"It is little wonder that in our recent survey of trust leaders more than 80% felt that continued underinvestment in capital was putting patient safety at risk. This needs to be urgently fixed.

"We are not in a good place when patients are forced to wait longer for treatment because of faulty scanners and theatre equipment or wards are closed because of leaks. It also directly impacts staff wellbeing with some working day in and day out in Victorian facilities at heightened risk of fires.

"The recent investment we have seen from the prime minister, and funding for six new hospitals, has been very welcome, but these figures make it clear we need much more to rebuild our NHS. We need to start making real progress in tackling the NHS backlog maintenance, or we continue storing up problems for the future.

 

The recent investment we have seen from the prime minister, and funding for six new hospitals, has been very welcome, but these figures make it clear we need much more to rebuild our NHS.

Saffron Cordery    Deputy Chief Executive


"We will need a multiyear settlement on capital that brings spending into line with other comparable economies, together with a better way of ensuring the money gets to where it's needed most."

Trust leaders are expressing their concerns about growing maintenance issues across the NHS.

Susan Acott, chief executive of East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, said: Our staff are working incredibly hard to maintain our estate, and we are prioritising the areas of greatest risk but what we want is to provide excellent care for our patients from modern facilities, and we will continue to seek the funding needed to do this.”

Paula Head, chief executive of University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The majority of our estate was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s and is now at the end of life – our patients deserve facilities that are fit for the 21st century and match the quality of clinical care our staff provide.”

 

The majority of our estate was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s and is now at the end of life – our patients deserve facilities that are fit for the 21st century and match the quality of clinical care our staff provide.

Paula Head    University Hospital South Hampton NHS Foundation Trust, chief executive


Tracy Taylor, chief executive of Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have prioritised the limited capital monies available to us so that we are investing in areas which reduce our highest risks including engineering infrastructure, distribution systems and building maintenance.

“However, we cannot continue to make do and mend. The need for investment is urgent and without both short-term and long-term funding our hospitals will continue to deteriorate and our ambition for better healthcare may never be realised.”

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