Hospitals 'spending millions on maintenance' and Raac amid delays to new-build replacements

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NHS hospitals promised new buildings have told ITV News they are spending tens of millions of pounds every year on maintenance and repair, amid fears that the government will not meet its target of replacing them by 2030.

NHS Providers, which represents trusts, says "uncertainty over funding and shifting timetables risks putting promised buildings further out of reach".

Some 40 new hospitals were promised by Prime Minister Boris Johnson after the last election, though that included some rebuild projects.

In the East of England, new hospitals were pledged for the Princess Alexandra in Harlow in Essex, the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds, the Queen Elizabeth in King's Lynn, Norfolk, the James Paget in Gorleston, and Hinchingbrooke in Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire.

But NHS Providers said that rising costs were putting those pledges at risk, with hospitals having to foot the bill of any delay.

The NHS is a key election issue Credit: Yui Mok/PA

The organisation adds that "crumbling estates and out-of-date equipment hamper care for patients", and some trusts are spending up to £1m a month "to patch up deteriorating sites".

Figures obtained by ITV News Anglia show hospitals across the region are spending millions patching up crumbling facilities.

At the Princess Alexandra in Harlow - where part of a ceiling collapsed above a patient in March - the trust is spending around £10m a year to keep the hospital going.

Last week its director of estates told a county council committee the trust had still not secured a new site.

Michael Meredith said: "We're expecting to put our planning in by 2025. That will give us a build date of 2030. That's our target date.

"However we're being clear - given the uncertainty at the moment - there is potential that might slip to 2032."

Staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn celebrate news their hospital will be replaced. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Meanwhile, the West Suffolk Hospital has spent more than £74m since 2019 on Raac-related repairs and maintenance.

Bosses say plans for a new hospital are on track, with "construction commencing post-2025 and a forecasted opening date in 2030."

In May 2023, staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn were celebrating being added to the rebuild programme.

Thousands of steel and timber supports continue to hold up the walls and ceilings - and Jo Rust, a member of the Save the QEH group, said she feared delays could have consequences.

"While we have confidence in the staff and the trust to try to deliver what they can, they can only do it if the government releases the funding.

"We're calling on the government [to] release the funding now. No more ifs, buts and maybes. No more procrastination and delays. We want that money now."

The hospital is being held up by thousands of temporary props. Credit: Queen Elizabeth Hospital

It is feared the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which provides care and services to around 330,000 people, will not last beyond 2030.

Some 79% of it was built using RAAC - the lightweight crumbling concrete which has since been found extensively in schools.

Local MP James Wild said he shared concerns over the hospital.

"I met with the new hospital minister and QEH only a few weeks ago to review progress and timelines and work is set to start later this year on the new car park which will free up space for the new hospital.

"So there is no time to hang around, we need to press on with all of the plans and approvals and that's what I'm focused on doing," he told ITV News Anglia.

The James Paget Hospital in Gorleston and Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon are also pressing on with their plans - as far as they can.

The Department for Health and Social Care told ITV News Anglia that it remained committed to the new hospital building programme and was making good progress.

It did not mention the 2030 deadline.

The Labour party said the government overpromised and underdelivered, and it did not believe the government would meet the 2030 deadline.

Last year a National Audit Office report also criticised progress on the rebuilding programme.

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