Cost of maintenance for ‘crumbling’ hospitals passes £1bn

The figure was up from £987 million the previous year.

Hospital maintenance
Hospital maintenance

The cost of maintenance work on England’s hospitals exceeded £1 billion last year, data shared by ministers has revealed.

Some £1,013,000,000 was spent on maintaining the hospitals estate in the 2021/22 financial year, according to the NHS’s annual Estates Returns Information Collection.

This was up from £987 million in the previous year, and from £890 million in 2017/18.

The information, shared by health minister Will Quince, appears to show investment in the backlog of maintenance has also risen dramatically.

Will Quince
Will Quince (Chris Jackson/PA)

Opposition parties criticised the Government for overseeing a “crumbling” NHS estate, with Labour questioning the future of the pledge to build 40 new hospitals as set out in the Tories’ 2019 election manifesto.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting, who wrote to ministers requesting the costs, said: “Rishi Sunak appears to have ditched the 40 new hospitals pledge, adding one more failure to the Conservatives’ record of overpromising and underdelivering.

“The Conservatives literally didn’t fix the hospital roof when the sun was shining and now the NHS is crumbling.

“Patients are paying the price for the Conservatives’ failure with longer waits, while taxpayers are paying more but getting less thanks to delays.”

Wes Streeting
Wes Streeting (Lucy North/PA)

Liberal Democrat health spokeswoman and deputy leader Daisy Cooper said: “The Conservative Government is systematically failing our NHS. Across our country, too many NHS buildings which people rely on are life-expired or crumbling.

“Patients and staff are being let down and now the true extent of our run-down hospitals has been revealed.

“With hospitals crumbling, A&E waits soaring, and nurses being taken for granted by ministers, it’s clearer than ever that Britain will never trust the Conservative Party with the NHS again.”

The 2021/22 bill for reducing the maintenance backlog was £1.4 billion, compared with £895 million the previous year, and up from £404 million in 2017/18.

The head of an influential cross-party committee of MPs last week questioned the Government about the new hospitals programme, as he claimed the NHS was “spending money on make do and mend”.

Steve Brine
Steve Brine (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

Steve Brine, Conservative chairman of the Health and Social Care Committee, highlighted “pretty significant delays” to parts of the programme, adding: “I hear that from colleagues across the House who speak to me as chair of this committee.”

Health Secretary Steve Barclay told the committee there is “probably no issue that is raised more frequently with me by parliamentary colleagues”.

He said the NHS needed “a fundamental shift away from bespoke local designs by local chief execs to a more standardised, modular, modern method of construction approach” to ensure new hospitals are built quickly and to budget.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “We have invested record sums to upgrade NHS buildings and facilities, so that trusts can continue to provide the best possible quality of care.

“We have committed to eradicate RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) from the NHS estate by 2035 and are protecting patient and staff safety in the interim period, including investing over £685 million to directly address urgent risks.

“We have invested £3.7 billion for the first four years of the New Hospital Programme and remain committed to all schemes that have been announced as part of it.

“We continue to work closely with trusts on their plans for new hospitals and are working through the recommendations for individual schemes.”

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