Money, money, money – The state of Britain’s hospitals

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Boris Johnson’s recent announcement of 40 new hospitals and a further £2.7bn billion a year investment in the NHS should have been met with joyous celebration amongst those in Healthcare.

However, the news has been overshadowed by ongoing reports that over 170 hospital beds across two NHS trusts had been closed due to fire safety concerns.

The FIA stated that Sheffield Teaching Hospitals and Oxford University Hospitals were ‘unable to progress fire safety work as quickly as required because of the lack of capital funding’.

A lack of funding has been a consistent theme in the NHS for some time now and it is reflected in the state of Britain’s hospitals and NHS Trusts. To the point where some hospital operating theatres have to be closed when it rains too hard, as the water could trigger electric faults in the systems that are keeping patients alive – an astonishing thing to comprehend, given it is 2019.

If this was not worrying enough, Britain’s hospitals are ageing at an alarming rate. Bolton’s NHS Foundation Trust reported a ceiling collapsing on a side ward, whilst Liverpool Royal Hospital flooded ten times in 2018. There were even accounts of faeces coming through the floor on the ultrasound corridor at Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS Foundation Trust.

So why are our hospitals having to choose between fixing the roof and paying their staff?

The NHS has faced a diminishing level of growth in funding over the last decade, with year-on-year cutbacks. Since 2010, the health service has in fact ‘endured the longest period of austerity in its history’.

Following Grenfell, there was also an unavoidable, huge push to have all hospitals stripped of any dangerous cladding on their premises, which ate up a lot of the funding that hospitals could have spent elsewhere.

But will Boris Johnson’s investment solve all of the NHS’s problems?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

Boris’s money is mainly earmarked for new build projects, and whilst the promise of refurbishment works for 6 major Trusts sounds encouraging, the hospitals set to benefit most from this investment are notably those in constituencies with political sway.

The problem for many trusts is that their ageing estates have been starved of funds for maintenance for years, and this is not looking likely to change. So although hospitals may be given shiny new units and wards, vast decrepit parts will be left untouched.

For Estates and Facilities Managers, this is a daunting task to face.

The NHS’s maintenance backlog has now hit £6bn, half of which is at a high or significant risk. This year will see £7bn spent, and with most of this investment being distributed amongst 6 hospitals, the money promised will not even scratch the surface of the issues faced in across the UK’s healthcare system.

The time has come for the government to invest more, ‘new’ money into its NHS and to lay down a long-term plan for its funding in which all areas of Estates get their fair share. Unfortunately, all of this will be dramatically overshadowed by Britain’s current political climate and whether we leave the EU.

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