Almost half of hospitals forced to close wards due to floods, power cuts and maintenance issues

Britain's crumbling hospitals are affected by flooding, leaks, and collapsed ceilings, ITV News' Dan Hewitt reports

Almost half of NHS hospitals in England have been forced to close wards and vital services due to flooding, power cuts and structural problems, ITV News has discovered.

Our investigation has found entire accident and emergency departments, maternity wards and paediatric units at NHS hospitals have been temporarily shut in the last three years due to maintenance problems.

Some hospitals have had to permanently close entire wards because they are no longer structurally safe.

A Freedom of Information request to 95 NHS Trusts in England found 42% of those who responded have had wards, departments or services temporarily or permanently closed to due structural or repair issues since 2020.

In the last three years, 171 incidents were recorded at 27 NHS trusts.

At St George's Hospital in south London, flooding in the maternity ward in 2020 meant women in labour had to be diverted by ambulance to other hospitals to give birth.

In a separate incident in 2022, the paediatric ward flooded and was closed for two days.

In January 2022, West Middlesex Hospital suffered a power loss that led to the temporary closure of its A&E department and several operating theatres.

At Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, in February 2022, an electrical issue had “significant impact on the operation of the hospital” - with a critical incident being declared and patients diverted away from the hospital.

The issues of disrepair in the NHS are getting worse. Our data shows the number of incidents has increased each year since 2020. There were:

  • 47 incidents in 2020;

  • 57 incidents in 2021;

  • 67 incidents in 2022.

Entire parts of St Mary's Hospital have been closed because they are structurally unsafe, ITV News found.

We were invited to film at St Mary's Hospital in Paddington. It is the major acute hospital for north-west London, as well as a maternity centre with consultant and midwife-led services.

They deliver world-class care in a building that its own consultants tell me is "falling down".

Scaffolding holds up the ceilings, the hospital experiences constant flooding and leaks, collapsed ceilings, and has rotting window frames.

The estate is in such a state of disrepair they have had to close entire parts of the hospital, including two wards, because they are structurally unsafe.

At a time when the NHS is under immense pressure, it is total waste of much needed clinical space.

“We deliver really high-quality care here for our patients, but it is falling down,” said Dr Bob Klaber, Consultant General Paediatrician and Director of Strategy, Research and Innovation.

“It is frustrating. When a ward closes, that puts more pressure on our teams working in the emergency department.

"Where repairs are going on, where water is coming through ceilings or windows, where we’re having to shut beds because a space is no longer safe, it just makes it so hard and really demoralising for staff.”

In the basement of a hospital that first opened in the mid-19th century, the pharmacy bears the brunt of the building’s numerous problems.

“I am a weather-watcher, if it’s raining, I am praying,” said Michele Garwood, Senior Lead Pharmacist.

“We’ve had flooding, we’ve had leaks, we’ve had the ceiling fall in in one of our rooms. We should be dealing with patient care.”

The hospital is not just one of the busiest in the country, it is one of the most historically significant. It was at St Mary’s Hospital where Sir Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin in 1928.

Dr Klaber says Fleming would be “pretty shocked” at how little the building has changed since then.

St Mary’s was initially included in the list of 40 hospitals the Conservative government announced it would rebuild by 2030, when it came to power in 2019, but in May it was downgraded and taken off the list off. The rebuild we will be delayed until after 2030.

Michelle Garwood said her "heart sank" when she heard the news.

It would cost St Mary’s £239 million to clear their repair backlog, but they can only afford to spend £7 million each year in maintenance.

We put the findings of our investigation to the Health Secretary Steve Barclay.

“We’re investing more in the NHS and that’s why we’re committing the biggest investment ever in the NHS estate; we’ve also invested in our maintenance programme,” he said.

“We are committed to 40 hospitals by 2030, we have brought in, listening to what NHS leaders have said to us, a number of hospitals which have a specific issue with the concrete that had been used in their construction, the RAAC concrete, places like Airedale, Kings Lynn and Bury St Edmonds. We’re fast-tracking those.

“It’s not just about record investment, we’re also innovating alongside that, doing things differently. By using modern methods of construction, constructing more to standardised design…that allows us to deliver the hospital programme around 25% cheaper.”

A St George’s spokesperson said: “We took immediate action to address and resolve flooding within two of our wards while ensuring we kept patients safe at all times.

"As a result of the repair work and investment in our infrastructure, including improved drainage, we have had no further incidents.”

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