Bedford Hospital Trust sees high-risk repairs bill rise by 161%

Bedford Hospital (Photo: Dr Robert Oakley)

Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has blamed its “ageing estate” for one of the highest rises in the cost of high-risk repairs backlog in England, with a 161% increase year on year.

High-risk repairs are those which must be urgently addressed to prevent catastrophic failure or major disruption to clinical services. 

And the scale of that disruption to patient care, caused by outdated NHS buildings and equipment, has been revealed following a BBC investigation.

Sewage leaks, floods and partially collapsed ceilings were among thousands of potentially harmful incidents recorded by hospital bosses last year, with Bedfordshire Hospital Trust reporting 20 such incidents.

As part of a wide-ranging study into the state of English hospitals, the BBC asked every acute hospital trust in the country to provide details of when estates and infrastructure failures had caused so-called “clinical service incidents”.

They also analysed the cost of the repair backlog at every acute hospital trust in England using the Estates Returns Information Collection (ERIC) data released by NHS England.

Clinical service incidents

Clinical service incidents are when the ability to deliver care has been affected by failures in the hospital environment.

Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust was among the 86 trusts that provided a response, revealing there had been at least 1,385 reports of infrastructure problems, impacting the care of at least 1,055 patients.

Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust reported 20 serious incidents, with six involving the word ‘flood’. The data does not differentiate between the two sites covered by the Trust, so it is not clear whether the incidents occurred at Bedford Hospital or Luton and Dunstable (L&D).

The cost of repairs backlog

The second part the BBC investigation looked at the amount of money it would cost each hospital trust in England to fix all of the known issues related to their infrastructure.

Source: BBC Shared Data Unit

The bill to complete so-called ‘high-risk’ repairs needed at NHS acute hospitals has swollen to £2bn – up by more than a third compared to the previous year.

The cost to repair all infrastructure issues reached more than £9.5bn in 2022-23. There has been a rise of £867m over five years, adjusting for inflation.

And the cost to make those repairs across the Bedfordshire Hospitals Trust estate has rocketed from £7,927,886 in 2021/22 to £20,683,645 in the last financial year – a rise of 161% and over £37.5m.

A spokesperson for Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust told the BBC that the high-risk repair bill has accumulated due to the ageing estate, “with a number of high and significant risks that can no longer proactively be managed.

“This is due to changes in building regulations and compliance requirements, hyper-inflation within the construction market, pressure on specialist resourcing in terms of skill and capacity, as well as our estates being pushed to the limit to support clinical activity, priorities and risk.

“Our Trust’s backlog stands at £193m and is growing, which we are unable to afford to address.

“These risks are regularly reported via local forums and the annual ERIC return. There is national recognition that capital funding is inadequate, with limited funding opportunities available to address high and significant risk.”

Asked if patients should be concerned about these figures, the spokesperson said: “The figures shown are concerning, however a schedule of high risk backlog maintenance is rolled out on an annual basis, focusing on the highest risks to clinical service provision.”

There is one silver lining though – to date, no RAAC has been found in the Trust estate.

Other Trusts with some of the largest repairs backlogs highlighted the age of their buildings, with Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust in London telling the BBC some of its buildings were older than the NHS itself – “nearly 180 years old”. 

Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust said large parts of its sites spanned “as far back as Victorian times” and Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust said it was “delivering 21st-century healthcare in 20th-century buildings”.  

Health think tank, The King’s Fund said: The terrible state of some NHS buildings and equipment should be a wake-up call for the government.”

Research provided by the BBC Shared Data Unit

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