Home » Crumbling NHS hospitals are leaving patients’ at risk, experts warn as safety incidents TRIPLE

Crumbling NHS hospitals are leaving patients’ at risk, experts warn as safety incidents TRIPLE

by Press room

Crumbling hospitals are putting patients at risk and jeopardising efforts to tackle NHS backlogs, experts warned today.

Sewage leaking through ceilings, broken lifts and rat-infested wards are among the issues logged by health chiefs.

Power outages also saw life-saving operations postponed, forcing women in labour to be rushed to other hospitals in taxis. 

The state of disrepair has forced hospitals, tasked with sorting the knock-on effects of Covid to patient care, to cancel hundreds of appointments. 

More than 6,800 health and safety incidents caused by old and faulty NHS buildings were logged last year. This is up from roughly 2,300 in 2017. 

Jeremy Hunt, former Health Secretary, claimed the figures, unearthed by The Times, were ‘deeply concerning’.

The health service logged 6,812 clinical service incidents linked to a failure to invest in infrastructure in the last year, such as collapsing ceilings and power outages that risked patient safety. The figure, which also covers leaks, heating problems and pest infestations, is 2.9-times higher than the 2,338 recorded in 2017. Pictured: Royal Liverpool Hospital flooded 10 times in 2018, causing delays to patient care and forcing staff to wear wellies

The newspaper’s FOI requests uncovered a case where a patient on a ventilator was stuck in a broken lift for half-an-hour. 

The patient, who was unconscious, was stuck alongside five members of staff at the Countess of Chester Hospital in May 2019.

Another incident at the same hospital saw patients have to ‘sleep in hats and gloves’ because of a lack of heating. Health chiefs labelled the issue ‘a patient death waiting to happen’. 

While a patient at Furness General Hospital in Cumbria saw their room overflow with ‘raw sewage’ in November, it was revealed.

Faeces coming through the floor and water leaking from ceilings: The horror incidents at NHS hospitals 

Ceiling collapse on a side ward, water leaking from the ceiling on the top of the maternity landing and a lift broke down trapping two nurses inside (North West)

Call bells were broken on a ward. Faeces coming through the floor on the ultrasound corridor (Yorkshire and the Humber)

Waste pipe above a ward broke, resulting in waste leaking into the ward area (West Midlands)

Part of the Emergency Department was closed due to a ‘severe’ sewage leak in December 2018 (London)

Dirt/faeces/slime spurted up through a sink. This landed on a patient’s bed, and covered the floor and surrounding area. There was also a ‘severe’ leak from the roof by the maternity unit. Store cupboards were soaked, and water was going into electric fittings (West Midlands)

A lift which had initially had a jammed door, stopped working. Staff and patients were unable to use the lift (South East)

Water poured onto a ward bed from the ceiling and patients had to be moved (London)

Sewage was coming up through the drains in bathrooms, water flooded into the ward corridor. Only one shower room was able to be used for 19 patients (East Midlands)

Water leaking from pipes led to delays to patients being operated on – operating time had to be reduced and some were cancelled or relocated (East Midlands

Several lifts out of service left no access to the Coronary Care Unit for catering trolleys, bed or patients. A patient was left on the Clinical Decisions Unit in a wheelchair, as they were unable to access CCU for treatment (East Midlands)

A burst pipe meant no x-rays could be taken (South)

Ceiling panel on a ward collapsed, but fortunately missed the patient (North West)

People were trapped in a lift (London)

‘Ceiling leakage’ and tiles falling off on numerous areas on a ward, and that on one occasion the labour ward was very cold, and they were unable to keep babies warm (West Midlands)

Lifts were not in action, making it impossible to get immobile patients upstairs – some were coming directly from clinic for urgent surgery and appointments had to be cancelled (South East)

And Oxford University Hospitals reported how sewage waste ‘started to rain torrents through the ceiling’ as a patient and doctor spoke.

Royal Lancaster Infirmary said a ‘dirty, foul-smelling water’ leaked through the ceiling into a ‘clean baby milk prep kitchen’, forcing nurses to move equipment and stock while also caring for newborns. 

And just over a week ago, a five-hour power outage at the Royal London Hospital in east London saw two kidney operations cancelled and women in labour taken to other maternity units in the back of taxis. 

Hundreds of rat and pest infestations have been reported at hospitals, with 38 of these logged at Guy’s and St Thomas’ Hospital in London alone.

Experts today said the safety problems are getting worse every year, forcing hospitals to ‘patch things up’.

Nigel Edwards, chief executive of the Nuffield Trust thinktank, told The Times: ‘There are significant safety issues putting patients at risk of harm. 

‘But there is also a lower level problem of cancellations, patients having to be moved because things aren’t working and the operation theatre is not available.

‘Then there is the pressure on staff who are having to deal with things falling apart around them.’

Mr Hunt, head of the Health and Social Care Select Committee, said failure to invest in NHS infrastructure would worsen the NHS waiting list — which already stands at a record 6.18million.

The Conservative MP, said to be plotting a leadership bid if Boris Johnson is ousted, added: ‘Proper investment in our hospital buildings is critical to patient safety. 

‘These infrastructure issues are clearly a big risk to progress on the backlog, and make already tough jobs even more difficult for NHS staff.

‘With the extra taxpayers’ money going into the system, I hope we will see a plan to tackle this problem as a matter of urgency.’

The NHS warned last year it needed £9.2billion to clear its backlog of maintenance work.

This includes upgrades to its portfolio 10,000-plus buildings, as well as equipment and ambulance services. 

The NHS deemed £1.6billion worth of the work was ‘high risk’, while £3billion had a ‘significant risk’. 

The health service already spends £10billion per year running its facilities. 

Some billions of pounds of taxpayers’ cash — generated through a 1.25 per cent national insurance hike — will be dished out to the NHS to reduce the number of people waiting for routine operations and scans, as well as social care.

But bosses warned red tape means this money can’t be spent on maintenance.

A spokesperson at the Department of Health said: ‘Patient safety is our top priority and we are investing record sums to upgrade and modernise NHS buildings so staff have the facilities needed to provide world-class care.

‘We are investing £1.7billion until 2025 for over 70 hospital upgrades across England, and in 2020-21 we invested a record £895 million in tackling critical infrastructure risk, which included funding for nearly 1,800 urgent maintenance projects across over 170 trusts.

‘We are also delivering the biggest hospital building programme in a generation, with a target of 48 hospitals by 2030.’   

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