Millions of pounds worth of urgent repairs need to be carried out at Preston and Chorley hospitals in order to prevent “catastrophic” failures and risk to safety.
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.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust - which runs Royal Preston and Chorley and South Ribble hospitals - is currently sitting on a backlog of £33.3m worth of repairs or replacements.
Around £2.3m worth of the outstanding jobs are classed as ‘high risk’ repairs.
This means they could cause “catastrophic failure, major disruption to clinical services or deficiencies in safety liable to cause serious injury and prosecution” if not addressed immediately.
Chorley MP Sir Lindsay Hoyle says that if the Trust is not transparent with him about its deficit he cannot fight for funding for Lancashire’s hospitals.
He said: “Since the initial closure of Chorley A&E unit I have pleaded with the management team at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust to be open and transparent about the state of finances and staffing levels.
“The Trust refused to answer simple questions and in the end I had to resort to using Freedom of Information requests.
“Once again this report appears to be another example of the Trust not being forthright with the community and it is deeply worrying.
“If equipment fails it will cost lives – this is unfair on staff and patients.
“If Trust management tell me honestly the size of the budget deficit and give details of issues like this massive backlog of repairs, I will be their loudest supporter knocking on the door No 10.
“I’ve already written asking the Chancellor to release vital funding for the NHS – but if I am excluded from vital information and discussions it puts the people of Chorley, South Ribble and Preston at a huge disadvantage when we’re fighting for funding.”
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 195 incidents where patients were either harmed or put at risk of harm.
There were 17,900 incidents across England during the same period.
Chaand Nagpaul, council chair at the British Medical Association, 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 under-investment 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 safety risks, and make NHS services less productive as operations and appointments may be cancelled at short notice.”
Bosses at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust say they attempting to deal with the backlog by prioritising high risk repairs.
Paul Havey, finance director and deputy chief executive at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We operate an ongoing maintenance programme across all of our sites to keep facilities in the best possible condition for our patients, staff and visitors.
“This includes prioritising the most ‘high risk’ issues to minimise any risk to staff or patients.
“Work is underway to deliver a number of maintenance works across our sites, with contractors appointed and others currently in the procurement process.
“This programme includes roof replacements, nurse call system upgrades, flooring replacement, lift upgrades, fire alarm panel replacements and a replacement of the cooling system for our day theatres.
“A number of other smaller schemes to improve the patient environment and safety have been prioritised too.
“These include new disabled toilet facilities and the provision of upgraded mental health assessment rooms in the emergency departments at both Preston and Chorley.
“In addition, we are investing in the Critical Care Unit at Preston as well as increasing theatre capacity at Chorley.
“We are also using an additional £1.9m funding to improve facilities and increase capacity within the emergency department in time for this winter.
“We are confident that these wide ranging improvements will build upon the good results published recently in the national PLACE (Patient Led Assessment of the Care Environment) assessment, a system for assessing the quality of areas within the hospital environment accessible to patients and the public.
“We were pleased to note that within these results our score for the condition, appearance and maintenance of the premises was 96.89 per cent, which is above the national average. We also scored 99.96 per cent for cleanliness – the best score in Lancashire.”