Tens of millions of pounds worth of repairs need to be carried out at the Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust in order to bring its facilities up to scratch.
Data released by NHS Digital has revealed the extent of the maintenance backlog across NHS property and facilities in England, with the British Medical Association warning it is having an impact on patient care.
The Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust is currently sitting on a backlog of £20.4 million worth of repairs or replacements which should have been carried out on its buildings and equipment.
Around £14.3 million worth of the outstanding jobs are classed as ‘significant risk’ repairs.
This means that if the trust doesn’t prioritise them soon, they could pose a risk to safety or disrupt the delivery of care.
Examples of maintenance required could include upgrading software on medical equipment, maintaining generators and boilers, and ensuring the structural integrity of buildings.
According to the data, which covers the 12 months to March, problems with the trust’s infrastructure led to eight incidents where patients were either harmed or put at risk of harm.
There were 17,900 incidents across England during the same period, an increase of 800 in a year.
Clinical services were delayed, cancelled or otherwise affected because of problems with buildings or facilities on four occasions.
Chaand Nagpaul, council chair at the BMA, said there was an “urgent” need for an injection of capital funding to address the NHS’s “impoverished infrastructure”.
Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst at independent health think tank the King’s Fund, 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.”
The repair bill across England reached a record £6 billion at the end of March.
It has risen every year since 2011-12, when it stood at £4 billion, while costs for outstanding high risk works have more than tripled over the same period.
“It is an unsustainable situation – both patients and the staff who work in the health service deserve much better,” said John Kell, head of policy at the Patient’s Association.
The NHS has a capital funding budget, which is the money to be spent on maintaining, improving or acquiring buildings and other assets rather than on the day-to-day running of services.
Over the last four years, the Department of Health and Social Care has transferred money from the capital budget into the pot for day-to-day spending.
According to NHS Providers, which represents trusts across the NHS, years of financial pressure combined with capital-to-revenue transfers have left trusts unable to address the mounting backlog.
Amber Jabbal, head of policy at NHS Providers, said: “We need to act now to ensure vital repair works are carried out to NHS buildings and equipment.
“Although more of the capital spending this year has been targeted at reducing the backlog of repairs, this is likely to have come at the expense of investing in new equipment and facilities to improve the experience of patients.
“While this approach shows trusts are rightly prioritising immediate concerns about safety, they are increasingly unable to take a longer term, strategic approach to investment.”
Last year, the Northampton General Hospital NHS Trust spent £2.2 million trying to reduce its backlog.
Since 2013-14, the cost of the backlog has risen by 9%.
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.”