Sharp rise in number of floods and fires recorded at NHS sites in the past year

Credit: PA

The NHS has been hit by a rise in the number of floods and fires at its sites in the past year, analysis of official figures shows.

The number of floods in 2022/23 was up by almost 60% on the previous 12 months, with 279 incidents recorded.

The incidents refer to flooding at NHS sites where water has caused disruption, for example by breaching a building or flooding an approach road.

Records of fires by NHS trusts also increased by close to a fifth compared to the 2021/22 financial year, while incidents of hospital buildings overheating were up by 20%.

The Liberal Democrats, who uncovered the figures, said the statistics should act as a “wake-up call” for the Conservative UK Government to “fix crumbling hospital buildings before it is too late”.

According to figures from NHS Digital, there were 1,372 fires recorded by NHS trusts in 2022/23, up 18% from the previous year.

The increased figure is equivalent to almost four fires a day across estates run by the nationalised health service.

It comes after a report, titled NHS Overheating by climate campaign group Round Our Way, found that the number of incidents of overheating climbed to a new record high of 6,822 in 2022/23.

That is up almost a quarter on the previous year and a rise of more than 100% since 2016/2017.

The increased figure is equivalent to almost four fires a day across estates run by the nationalised health service. Credit: PA

The Lib Dems said such incidents refer to occasions when the temperature in an occupied ward or clinical area rises above 26C - the temperature at which some vulnerable patients become unable to cool themselves efficiently.

The impact of overheating incidents during heatwaves in the NHS can include patient distress, failure of essential equipment such as refrigeration, disruption to IT and laboratory services, staff discomfort and degradation or loss of medicine, according to the 20-page report released in June.

The same study also found an estimated 90% of current UK hospitals are at risk from overheating, and that incidents are likely to increase as heatwaves become more common.

The Lib Dems are calling on ministers to increase capital investment to upgrade NHS infrastructure, fix outdated hospital buildings and improve their resilience to heatwaves and other extreme weather events.

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.

Daisy Cooper. Credit: PA

“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.”

A Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) 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 £4.2 billion for estates this financial year, £3.7 billion for the next four years under the New Hospital Programme and £1.7 billion for 70 hospital upgrades.

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

The department did not reply to questions asking why recorded incidents of fire and flooding were up compared with last year.

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