NHS facing £858m bill to stop buildings crumbling

The NHS in Scotland is facing an £858 million backlog of repairs to its buildings, with a third of sites said to be needing improvements, a report shows.

Picture: PA
Picture: PA

The report revealed that NHS assets amounted to around £5 billion last year, with £4.66bn of this in land and buildings.

As well as improvements to its property, the report said sig-nificant investment was needed to replace ageing equipment.

Sign up to our public interest bulletins - get the latest news on the Coronavirus

The figures highlighted that 28 per cent of the NHS estate was more than 50 years old, while a further 26 per cent was between 30 and 50 years old. Only 20 per cent of buildings were less than ten years old.

The age of buildings has contributed towards the £858m maintenance backlog to bring sites back to a satisfactory condition. While this backlog has fallen by £90m since 2012, the report said it remained a “substantial issue” and an “ongoing estate risk”.

“It is an on-going challenge for the NHS to balance investment between that which is foc­used on service improvement and development, and that which is necessary to maintain buildings in a good condition and ensure that they are safe, reliable and fit for purpose,” it said.

Thirty per cent of NHS boards’ estate was classed as needing investment to improve its condition, while 3 per cent was said to be unsatisfactory and needing major investment or replacement. The report – Annual State of NHS Scotland Assets and Facilities – also revealed 9 per cent of buildings were overcrowded, while 9 per cent were under-used and 5 per cent were empty.

There were warnings that major investment would also be required in the coming years to address ageing equipment.

Around a third of equipment such as kidney dialysis machines and heart defibrillators were found to be more than seven years old. Defibrillators, which restart the heart, have a lifespan of about ten years. The report said: “The data shows a warning of need for considerable investment in defibrillator replacements over the next few years, with 32 per cent of current units over seven years old.”

It said that the £78m spent on new and replacement medical equipment in 2012-13 was considered “just adequate”.

Most equipment will need to be replaced within seven to 15 years, though developments in areas such as scanning means lifespans could reduce to less than ten years.

Based on current equipment spending plans of £213m for the next three years, average time for all equipment to be replaced is currently more than 13 years.

The report said the consequences of not replacing equipment sooner included not taking advantage of innovations to improve patient care and lack of parts for maintenance.

The Scottish Government said that in 2013-14 alone it had invested more than £525m in NHS buildings and equipment.

Health Secretary Alex Neil said: “I want every patient in Scotland to be treated in facilities that are truly fit for purpose and as close to home as possible.

“That is why we are continuing to invest in buildings and equipment to enable our NHS to provide state-of-the-art facilities for patients and staff.”