NHS hospitals have a backlog of maintenance costs totalling nearly £4bn, figures obtained by the UK opposition Conservative Party show.
The cost of backlog maintenance – essential repairs that have been identified but not yet made – has increased by £900m to £3.74bn in the 10 years since the governing Labour Party came to power.
Backlog maintenance was mentioned as a contributing factor in the Clostridium difficile outbreak at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust that was directly linked to 90 patients’ deaths.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Landsley was given the figures after tabling a parliamentary question.
He told Hospital Doctor newspaper that the Government’s claims that the NHS was £500m in surplus were misleading.
He said: “The truth is that the NHS surplus, which the Government enjoys boasting about, is a sham. Public health budgets, education and training budgets and now the basic maintenance and upkeep of our hospitals have been plundered to produce this surplus.”
Stephen Campion, chief executive of the Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association, added: “The public is being told the NHS is in surplus, but the figures do not convey the vast amount that should have been spent on maintenance.”
The UK Department of Health said the maintenance backlog was not included when calculating the NHS surplus, as repairs were classed under capital expenditure rather than revenue costs.
Dr Andrew Bamji, a consultant rheumatologist at Queen Mary’s Hospital, Kent, said: “If budgets are under pressure it is usually maintenance that is the first to suffer, which may compromise patient care.”
The worst-hit hospitals in the country were in the inner-city London trusts, Hammersmith and St Mary’s. The two trusts have now merged, and have a combined maintenance backlog cost of £256.5m.
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