NHS 'has repair bill of pounds 2.2bn': Labour says backlog costs have spiralled

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The Independent Online
THE NHS faces a pounds 2.2bn backlog of repairs to hospitals and other property, David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, said yesterday.

The backlog has risen by more than 40 per cent since 1990, according to calculations carried out by his office on information provided in Parliamentary answers.

The North East Thames region has the largest backlog - pounds 330m, of which almost half is accounted for in Bloomsbury and Islington, where the Middlesex and University College Hospitals are under threat from their local health authority's proposals to remove contracts from them.

Other districts with large backlog bills include Leeds at pounds 61m, Norwich at pounds 39m, Nottingham with pounds 29m, Bristol and Western with almost pounds 18m, and Sheffield, almost pounds 17m. In Manchester the backlog runs to pounds 34m, while in Birmingham it is almost pounds 96m.

Since 1990, the total in England had risen more than 40 per cent to pounds 2.167bn, Mr Blunkett said yesterday. Figures provided by the Department of Health showed that in 1990 it stood at pounds 1.534bn. Since then only two regions, Oxford and Mersey, had reduced their backlog.

The total compares to new capital building of about pounds 1bn in 1990-91 and maintenance expenditure of about pounds 430m, according to the Department of Health's annual report.

'These statistics show that the NHS in many areas is literally falling apart. How can the Government claim all is well with our health service when more than pounds 2bn is needed for urgent repairs to crumbling hospitals and other essential facilities?' he said.

The figures covered NHS trusts and directly managed hospitals and units, and included the cost of clearing outstanding maintenance and work required to meet statutory standards. Mr Blunkett said it was time for Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, to wake up to 'the reality of our disintegrating health service'.