Broken lifts, leaks, sinking floors, holes in the ceiling and cracked walls – this is the reality at one NHS hospital.
Alarming footage has laid bare the grim condition of St Helier Hospital in south London, which is said to be ‘literally crumbling’.
Clips released as part of an ITV investigation show ‘leaks so severe they flood and close corridors’, maternity staff working under sheets full of water, and broken doors being propped open by waste bins.
Some wards at the hospital have become so unsafe they have been shut, and what was once an intensive care unit is being used a store room due to a broken ventilation system.
Dr Pauline Swift, a consultant who works at the hospital, said: ‘I feel like the NHS is held together by new licks of paint and plywood.
Alarming footage has laid bare the grim condition of St Helier Hospital in south London, which is said to be ‘literally crumbling’
Some wards at the hospital have become so unsafe they have been shut (pictured) and what was once an intensive care unit is being used a store room due to a broken ventilation system
‘There are leaks, a lot of leaks. Paint is peeling off the wall. It looks very much like a temporary shack.’
She added that staff fear patients will be concerned about what sort of care they are going to receive in conditions that are ‘not suitable, not now, not ever.’
But Dr Swift stressed that the level of care provided is ‘first-class’.
And this is not a one-hospital issue.
Half of trusts which responded to the investigation claimed to have at least one unresolved structural or maintenance problem.
The University Hospital of North Tees said its building is not fit for purpose and ‘presents significant safety issues for our staff and patients.’
Huddersfield Royal Infirmary claimed there is ‘potential for falling stone’ at its site, while Liverpool’s The Walton Centre said leaks have been unresolved for eight years.
And Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn is being ‘held up by 61 temporary props’, while Torbay Hospital has significant structural defects in the concrete floors above two operating theatres.
At Croydon University Hospital, one patient was so appalled by the ward conditions, which included a tree growing through a bathroom window and no heating on the wards, that she took videos.
Sarah Hills said: ‘My nose was freezing and it was bitter. They brought down one oil-filled portable heater that was put near my bed. That was it for a whole ward.
‘I looked up at the ceiling above my head and it was cracked.’
Ms Hills added that staff were being forced to work in ‘such poor conditions’ and her ‘heart just bled for them’.
ITV found that many NHS doctors feel maintenance issues are being played down, and even hidden, but are too scared to speak out for fear of repercussions.
This is not a one-hospital issue, as 50 per cent of trusts who responded to the investigation claimed to have at least one unresolved structural or maintenance problem
Clips released as part of an ITV investigation show ‘leaks so severe they flood and close corridors’, maternity staff working under sheets full of water, and broken doors being propped open by waste bins (pictured)
Speaking anonymously, one medic said: ‘I feel like we are always just hoping that the next time something happens it doesn’t cause something catastrophic.’
And another, also anonymously, said: ‘I have had to push a critically unwell patient through dropping water effectively and getting both me and the patient wet.’
The Department of Health and Social Care said that hospitals are being given record amounts of funding to repair and maintain their premises.
Numerous factors, including delays to the Government’s New Hospitals scheme, are to blame for the state of Britain’s crumbling hospitals.
Tory MP Elliot Colburn said: ‘The pictures we have seen of St Helier Hospital are shocking indeed.
‘NHS staff should not have to put up with working in these conditions and patients deserve better.
‘This is exactly why we need the investment that the Government has committed to putting into the NHS Trust, which will not only allow St Helier to fix these problems and improve their facilities, but also build a second, brand new hospital in the area.
‘It’s time for the bureaucracy to get out the way so the NHS can get on and deliver these improvements.’
Labour’s botched private finance initiatives (PFI) — expanded to the NHS when it was last in power — are also partly blamed.
Under PFI schemes, private firms paid for the building of new hospitals, with trusts repaying them over 30 or more years, with interest. Hospitals are currently paying out more than £2billion a year still as part of the deal.
Trusts also agreed to pay firms for maintenance of the properties, meaning the companies can charge exorbitant sums as there can be no competition.
Often, trusts pay a fixed sum for maintenance — meaning if they do not need much work done over a year, each individual piece of work becomes very expensive.
This has seen trusts fork out up to £13,000 to install lights in a garden, over £8,000 to install a dishwasher and nearly £1,000 to build and fit a TV cabinet.
Experts have warned that PFI-funded hospitals are a ‘major drain’ on NHS trusts’ budgets.
Thinktanks calculated that up to £1 in every £6 of trusts’ budgets are spent on the ‘toxic’ legacy of PFI – leaving little left to invest in building.