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Last Updated: Wednesday, 24 October 2007, 23:04 GMT 00:04 UK
NHS repairs 'backlog' hits 4bn
Operations were delayed to help meet the surplus target
NHS trusts have a 4bn backlog of key maintenance repairs which range from fixing heating to meeting fire safety rules, government figures suggest.

The figure is eight times this year's much-heralded NHS surplus, which was achieved by making a variety of cuts.

Shadow Health Secretary Andrew Lansley, who obtained the figures, said they showed the surplus was a "sham".

But the Department of Health said repairs come under a different budget, and have no bearing on the surplus.

"Backlog" repairs are those needed to bring NHS property in line with various standards.
Hammersmith Hospitals NHS Trust: 137,859,814
St Mary's NHS Trust: 118,626,123
Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust: 107,481,035
The Hillingdon Hospital NHS Trust: 88,521,270
Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust: 84,800,146

They include repairing roofs and fixing drainage, but do not cover painting wards or replacing furniture.

It is large city hospital trusts which have the greatest backlog, according to Hospital Doctor, which first reported the details.

Priority treatment

"The truth is that the NHS surplus, which the government enjoys boasting about, is a sham," said Mr Lansley.

"Public health budgets, education and training budgets and now the basic maintenance and upkeep of our hospitals have been laundered to produce this surplus."

Health Minister Ben Bradshaw said urgent maintenance work that will affect patient care "is always prioritised", but he added that making this decision was up to the local NHS trust concerned.

There were occasions when "low priority" maintenance work was backlogged "to prevent disruption to patient services".

"It would be irresponsible to disrupt patient services to resolve them."

The Department of Health said that a leaking roof in an unused building would, for instance, be a lower priority that one starting to show damp in an occupied building.

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