The Government’s lack of progress on the New Hospital Programme (NHP) came under the microscope again this week as it was revealed that sewage is leaking into cancer wards, maternity units, and A&E departments across England.
Urine and faecal matter have been found seeping into wards, pouring through ceilings, and spewing out of drains, with one hospital trust recording 105 sewage leaks in 2022 – nearly one incident every three days.
And the data, compiled by the Liberal Democrats, reveals that patients have slipped on the sewage while staff have become ill, complaining of headaches and nausea from the smell.
Branding the findings a ‘national scandal’, Lib Dem leader, Sir Ed Davey, said that unless the Government delivered on its manifesto promise to deliver 48 new hospitals under the NHP, unfit buildings would continue to pose a threat to the safety of patients and staff.
Breaking a promise
He added: “Patients should not be treated in these conditions and heroic nurses shouldn’t have the indignity of mopping up foul sewage.
“There is still no sign of the new hospitals promised by this Conservative Government.
“They have taken local communities for granted by, yet again breaking a manifesto promise.
The damning revelation comes as the cost of backlog maintenance across the NHS estate in England has this month reached £9billion, with £4.5billion worth of issues classed as ‘high’ or significant risk’.
Patients should not be treated in these conditions and heroic nurses shouldn’t have the indignity of mopping up foul sewage
And another Lib Dem investigation earlier this month also revealed that only one in four of the new hospitals promised under the NHP have planning permission.
Under its manifesto commitment, the Government promised all the hospitals would be delivered by 2030.
Responding to the latest figures, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “While individual NHS organisations are legally responsible for maintaining their estates, we are investing record sums to upgrade and modernise NHS buildings so staff have the facilities needed to provide world-class care – including £4.2billion this year and £8.4billion over the next two years.”
On the NHP commitment, they added: “More widely, we have invested £3.7billion for the first four years of the New Hospital Programme and remain committed to all schemes that have been announced as part of it.”
In November, BBH quizzed the department over fears the NHP was being pared back, particularly as the original 48 hospital promised had seemingly been changed to 40 developments in total in more-recent government documents.
And, to date, just two of those projects have been completed, while only five others are under construction.
We have invested £3.7billion for the first four years of the New Hospital Programme and remain committed to all schemes that have been announced as part of it
In response to our questions, a spokesperson said: “We are taking action to speed up the construction of hospital sites, including spending time developing designs that can be shared across projects, preparing the construction industry for works, and building hospitals simultaneously.”
This pledge comes after it was announced on 2 July last year that the National Audit Office (NAO) is set to hold a ‘value for money review’ of the programme with the watchdog’s comptroller and auditor general, Gareth Davies, allegedly telling the Observer there were concerns over budgets, delays, and the definition of ‘new hospital’.
Confusion also abounds over what constitutes a ‘new hospital’, with the majority of projects appearing to be replacements for existing hospitals, new wings, or refurbishments.