ONE of London’s biggest hospitals ran out of beds on 20 occasions in the last six months after a series of disasters with its crumbling buildings.
Highest-level “black alerts” were declared at St Mary’s, in Paddington, after part of the first floor and a ceiling collapsed in the 147-year-old Cambridge wing, resulting in the loss of 31 beds until December.
The problems have also forced the closure of St Mary’s birth centre until mid-November, requiring almost 100 women to date to change plans and give birth either on a labour ward at St Mary’s or at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea hospital in Acton.
It comes ahead of a Westminster council planning meeting tonight [Tuesday, 6.30pm] to decide whether to approve the first stage of the hospital’s redevelopment in the face of objections from some neighbours.
Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust want to build a £162m nine-storey outpatients department on the “triangle” site at the junction of Praed Street and South Wharf Road.
Council planners “fully support” the proposal, saying the hospital’s needs provide “significant justification and public benefit” to outweigh objections about loss of daylight from 69 residents of Westcliffe and Peninsula apartments.
Imperial chief executive Ian Dalton said the trust was already spending £16 million a year across its five hospitals before the problems at Cambridge wing, which will cost £1 million to fix, came to light.
In a board report, he said: “The trust has one of the largest backlog building maintenance programmes in the NHS. With a third of its buildings over 100 years old, St Mary’s has the largest proportion of maintenance issues but all five of our hospital estates have significant problems.”
The problems at St Mary’s, which dates to 1845, have caused major logistical problems in moving patients, equipment and supplies between hospital buildings and were a factor in the trust failing to hit the four-hour A&E target last month.
In addition to the problems on Cambridge wing, a flood on Paterson wing, which houses the surgical innovation unit, forced the wing’s closure for a fortnight and the cancellation of a “small number” of operations. The Jefferiss wing was flooded on a separate occasion.
Escalation areas are opened to create extra beds when possible but the high bed occupancy rate, increased demand – which is expected to escalate with the onset of winter – and increasingly sick patients means treatment targets slip and some operations are delayed.
- An edited version of this article appears in today’s Evening Standard.