ROYAL Bournemouth Hospital had a maintenance backlog of £4.5million worth of work in relation to high-risk issues that needed to be addressed to prevent “catastrophic failure” or major disruption to services.

Overall the hospital had a backlog totalling £16.3million at the end of March last year, according to recently published figures from NHS Digital.

NHS Providers warned that the speed at which the NHS estate is falling into disrepair is putting patients’ lives at greater risk and making it more difficult for frontline staff to provide the right quality of care.

University Hospitals Dorset, which runs Royal Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole hospitals, said it invested more than £5million in estates maintenance over the past year.

Alongside the £4.5million required to eradicate the high-risk category, RBH had £1.24million in the significant group. There was £10.6million in the moderate and low grades, which typically relates to improving the patient environment and can include the refurbishment and repainting of a building.

An overall backlog worth £8.2million was reported at Poole Hospital, with £404,000 deemed high risk and the rest low risk.

Christchurch Hospital had a backlog of £240,000, with £30,000 significant, £100,000 moderate and £110,000 low.

Edwin Davies, director of estates for University Hospitals Dorset, said: “We undertake a rolling programme of estates maintenance, and in the past year have invested more than £5m in this. Areas are addressed in order of need, and maintenance deemed urgent is given the highest priority.

“Many areas of backlog maintenance will be addressed by our ambitious £250m plans to transform services and house them in new state-of-the-art buildings over the coming years.

“This includes the construction of new operating theatres at Poole Hospital, as the major planned care facility for east Dorset, and a new centre for emergency, women’s and children’s care at the Royal Bournemouth.”

University Hospitals Dorset’s £250million transformation project, which requires four years of construction work, involves a new maternity, children’s, emergency and critical care unit at the Royal Bournemouth, while Poole is set to have a new theatre complex.

Across England, £9billion should have been spent on eradicating the backlog of maintenance work required across all NHS trusts in 2019/20.

Chris Hopson, chief executive of NHS Providers, said: “The backlog is now broadly equivalent to the annual cost of running the entire NHS estate.

“More worrying still, over half of this is for work of high or significant risk.

“In short, this problem poses an increasing threat to safety.”

Mr Hopson said it is also impacting on the response to the pandemic, with a “dramatic” rise in demand for oxygen in recent months placing a strain on supply.

He added: “Trusts have upgraded several hospital systems over the past few months to prepare, however many trusts are telling us that the deteriorating state of the NHS estate is having an impact on the supply of oxygen. Our members have also been telling us how difficult it is proving to expand capacity at pace and ensure high quality infection control in old, outdated buildings.

“Unfortunately it is patients and service users who are paying the price for this backlog.”

A spokesman for the Department of Health and Social Care said it is investing “record sums” to upgrade NHS buildings.

“Alongside funding to deliver 48 hospitals and 20 major hospital upgrades across the country, we are providing £600 million to tackle nearly 1,800 urgent maintenance projects across 178 trusts, he added.”

“This is on top of the NHS’s existing capital budgets which are directed to local maintenance priorities.”

Maintenance categories

  • High risk is where repairs/replacement must be addressed with urgent priority in order to prevent catastrophic failure, major disruption to clinical services or deficiencies in safety liable to cause serious injury and/or prosecution.
  • Significant risk is where repairs/replacement require priority management and expenditure in the short term so as not to cause undue concern to statutory enforcement bodies or risk to healthcare delivery or safety.
  • Moderate risk is where repairs/replacement require effective management and expenditure in the medium term through close monitoring so as not to cause undue concern to statutory enforcement bodies or risk to healthcare delivery or safety.
  • Low risk is where repairs/replacement require to be addressed through agreed maintenance programmes or included in the later years of an Estates Strategy.