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10 July 2019
Four NHS trusts that are 'so decrepit that they pose a threat to patients and staff' have been warned by fire chiefs that they will be shut down if urgent improvements are not made.
Management at the trusts blame multibillion-pound government raids on the NHS’s capital budget in recent years for creating a situation where they have been left without the money to fix worsening problems with hospital buildings.
Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers, which represents trusts in England, said, “A number of trusts have told me that they are worried they are running an unacceptable fire hazard risk and several have said they don’t have the capital to comply with the terms of formal Care Quality Commission enforcement notices.
“Over many years of austerity, trusts have scrimped, saved, patched up and made do, but we’ve now reached a crisis point.”
The Care Quality Commission is also considering using its powers because it fears infrastructure problems risk affecting patients.
The Epsom and St Helier NHS trust in Surrey calculated last year that it needed to spend £93m to urgently prevent their facilities from becoming so out of date that they presented a threat.
The CQC is understood to have told the trust that it will take enforcement action against its intensive care unit unless it urgently addresses problems identified more than a year ago.
Prof John Appleby, an expert in NHS finances at the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, said "We’ve now had many years of the NHS investment pot being siphoned off just to keep day-to-day services running and the problems are multiplying.
"There can be no doubt that all this is getting in the way of safe and effective care."
According to The Guardian, the overall bill facing the NHS in England to tackle its backlog of maintenance shot up from £5.5bn in 2016-17 to almost £6bn in 2017-18, including £3bn needed to tackle problems that involve a “high” or “significant” risk, of which more than £1bn are problems posing a high risk.