Fires, floods and overheating up at NHS sites

By John Mercury December 28, 2023

Fires, floods and overheating incidents have increased across the NHS in England year-on-year, analysis of official figures has shown.

NHS Digital statistics highlighted by the Liberal Democrats show that flooding on health service properties increased by 59% when the 2022/23 period was compared to the 2021/22 year.

There were 279 incidents in the most recent timeframe, compared to 176 in the previous one.

These were incidents at NHS properties that caused disruption – like a building being breached or a road being flooded.

The number of fires increased from 1,159 to 1,372 across the same period – a rise of 18% – meaning there were on average almost four fires a day somewhere on NHS England properties.

This includes hospitals and other facilities under the health services’ purview.

Overheating – where a ward or clinical area reaches more than 26C – was also up year-on-year.

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This temperature is chosen because it is where some vulnerable patients are unable to cool themselves efficiently, according to the Lib Dems.

There were 6,822 such occasions in the 2022/23 period – up 23% on the previous tally of 5,554.

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In 2016/17, this figure was 2,980, according to the Liberal Democrats.

A 2023 report titled NHS Overheating from climate campaign group Round Our Way found overheating led to reported impacts including “distress of patients, failure of essential equipment such as refrigeration systems, disruption of IT services and laboratory services, discomfort of staff and degradation and loss of medicine”.

The same study estimates that 90% of UK hospitals are at risk of overheating, and that such occasions are likely to increase in frequency as heatwaves become more common.

The Liberal Democrats have called for more capital investment in the NHS estate to upgrade, improve and fix buildings.

Lib Dem deputy leader Daisy Cooper
Image:
Lib Dem Daisy Cooper has called for more investment in the NHS estate

Daisy Cooper, health spokeswoman for the party, said: “This sharp rise in flooding, fires and overheating must act as a wake-up call for ministers to fix crumbling hospital buildings before it is too late.

“The government has failed to upgrade run-down and ageing hospitals, leaving them particularly vulnerable to extreme weather events.

“Every day, people are being treated in old and dilapidated buildings because the Conservatives have failed to deliver on the new hospitals they promised.

“This is leading to countless incidents that pose a threat to the safety of patients and to staff, and needless disruption as wards have to be shut down.”

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A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: “We have invested significant sums to upgrade and modernise NHS buildings so staff have the facilities to provide world-class care for patients.

“This includes £4.2bn for estates this financial year, £3.7bn for the next four years under the new hospital programme and £1.7bn for 70 hospital upgrades.

“Trusts are responsible for prioritising this funding to maintain and refurbish their premises, including the renewal and replacement of equipment.”

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