Edinburgh's health service: Maintenance backlog doubles during Covid

The cost of the maintenance backlog on NHS Lothian buildings has more than doubled since the start of the pandemic, new statistics reveal.

At the end of the 2020/21 financial year, the bill for work waiting to be done was £52,900,000, but it is now estimated to be £113,451,635 – an increase of 114 per cent. There are a total of 4,843 items on the list. The biggest include £9 million to replace “aged and ineffective” ventilation at the Western General Hospital and £3 million for windows at St John’s Hospital, Livingston.

And across Scotland, the maintenance backlog facing the NHS has soared to over £1.5 billion. The figures were obtained by the Scottish Conservatives through a series of Freedom of Information requests to health boards.

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Shadow Health Secretary Dr Sandesh Gulhane said the “jaw-dropping” figure was further evidence of the SNP Scottish Government’s “shocking failure” to fully resource health boards across the country. NHS Lothian is the lowest-funded health board in Scotland.

Dr Gulhane said Health Secretary Humza Yousaf must act urgently on the situation and guarantee that the maintenance backlog would not spiral further out of control at a time when the NHS was already under huge financial pressures.

He said: “These figures are absolutely jaw-dropping. It is scarcely believable that the backlog bill facing our NHS has now hit such an astronomical figure of over £1.5 billion. The increase in maintenance work that requires to be carried out across Scotland’s health boards is further evidence of the SNP’s shocking failure to fully fund our health boards.

“Far too many of our crucial health service sites have been allowed to fall into a state of disrepair and it is appalling that as a result many repairs are now deemed significant or high risk.

“Our NHS is already under huge financial strain and this ever-increasing repair bill can be directly linked to years of chronic underfunding from successive SNP health secretaries. These repairs needs to be carried out urgently or else we risk patients having treatments and operations cancelled, adding to the already record-high waiting times.

The "aged and ineffective" ventilation at the Western General Hospital will cost £9 million to replace. Picture: Andrew O'Brien.

“These figures must be a catalyst for Humza Yousaf to guarantee our health boards will have all the resources they need, so this maintenance bill can be dramatically reduced from its current unsustainable levels.”

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NHS Lothian said in their FoI response that high-risk items on the backlog list had been reviewed and scoped, with a programme of works due to be collated and published by December. But it said no concern over the structural integrity of operational NHS Lothian buildings had been identified. Dilapidated, non-operational buildings had been secured and there were no known issues in relation to structural integrity.

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