The Royal Preston and Chorley and South Rible hospitals have been handed a £14.9m government loan for essential maintenance work and equipment upgrades.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (LTH) is one of 13 NHS trusts which will share £184m of temporary funding to “upgrade critical infrastructure and ensure the safety of NHS buildings”.
Papers presented to a board meeting of the trust earlier this month revealed that the maintenance backlog across the two hospital sites now stands at £37.6m - more than two thirds of which is judged to pose a “high or significant risk”.
Work which has been prioritised for the current financial year includes measures dealing with fire and water safety, the condition of the electrical infrastructure, the safe management of asbestos, roof repairs and the replacement of the nurse call system.
£4.7m was invested by the trust last year in maintenance, but board members were told that this year’s budget would be more “restricted” and that the backlog “is outstripping the trust’s current level of investment to address it”.
Meanwhile, the cash available for upgrading equipment also dropped from £6m during 2018/19 to just £1m for 2019/20 - a quarter of which is being held as a contingency to deal with any unforeseen needs. Priorities for replacing equipment are decided after assessing the risks of it failing - and the clinical impact if it does.
Some major capital investment schemes are currently underway - including an extension to the critical care unit and the refurbishment of the kitchens at the Preston site. The trust has also recently been granted £1.7m by NHS Improvement for its emergency care facilities.
Responding to the government announcement, Jonathan Wood, deputy chief executive and finance director at LTH, said: “We welcome this loan funding to help us maintain and upgrade critical infrastructure to ensure that we can support the very best care for our patients. This funding will enable us to make much needed improvements in the short and medium term and is all part of the work that is underway to look at how we can deliver a health and social care system in the longer term that delivers better health outcomes and improved patient experience.”
Speaking at the recent board meeting before the new loan was announced, vice chair Tim Watkinson said: “We need to make sure our estate is maintained as well as it can be and that we address any health and safety issues [as we have been assured is the case].
“It serves to underline the need for a new site which would be a good long-term solution.”
The Department of Health loan will be charged to trusts at the government’s rate of borrowing.
Board papers show that the liquidity of LTH has worsened due to the number of existing capital loans which are due to be repaid within the next twelve months. The trust had an operational deficit of £23.7m at the end of August.