Health estates maintenance backlogs

When doing nothing is not an option, doing what you can do right becomes a priority.

The latest Estates Return Information Collection (ERIC) data on the NHS estate shows the cost of eradicating backlog maintenance has risen to over £9 bn, almost 40 per cent up on 2018/2019’s figure of £6.45 bn. Worryingly, over £1.5 bn of this is described as high risk work, a category that has risen by more than a third over the previous year. Unfortunately the data is likely to represent a clear and present risk to patients and staff, and exposes trust executives to the threat of legal challenge and prosecution. Empty coffers are no defence. Doing nothing is not an option.

The ERIC data for backlogs does not include planned maintenance. It is a measure of how much would need to be invested to restore a building to a certain state based on a state of assessed risk criteria. Of course, risk assessments must, by law, be reviewed regularly, typically every two years and renewal, if done properly, is a significant budget commitment in its own right. How can you make risk assessment process work harder for you?

Here are a few questions to ask before you commission an update:

  • Should you undertake the assessment internally, outsource entirely or work in partnership?
  • Are you clear on what risk assessments you need? Water, air hygiene, fire etc. Can you find synergies by aligning the assessment processes?
  • Are you confident that the new risk assessment defines and shows you the difference between high, significant, moderate and low risk?
  • Will it include a review and update of asset registers?
  • Will it be desk-based or involve visual inspection and be truly premises-specific?
  • Are you aware of the competency and qualifications assessors should have?
  • Will the deliverables include a commentary offering a clear roadmap to prioritise essential works?
  • Will the assessors look for integrated solutions or sticking plasters?

This return collects data up to 31st March 2020, so will not reflect the inevitable financial impact on NHS Trust finances of the Covid 19 Pandemic. Unfortunately, next year’s data is unlikely to make pleasant reading, so maybe 2021 is a good time to think about updating risk assessments and putting future plans in place.

Posted: 23/02/21

Maintenance backlogs in the health sector put essential air an water services at riskat
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