Patient safety


NHS can’t replace ‘tatty’ and broken-down equipment due to lack of funding

“Missed investment opportunities” for vital cancer scanning and major equipment were identified as issues created due to government cuts in NHS funding, new research shows.

Broken-down ambulances, rotten windows, and “tatty” equipment that manufacturers are no longer supporting due to its age were cited as symptoms of failures in funding by the 30 trusts interviewed as part of research by the University of Birmingham and the Health Foundation.

The study told of interviews where hospitals could only afford to replace equipment when it was essential and absolutely necessary for patient safety. “There has been quite a lot of occasions in mid-year when stuff has broken down and we’ve had to suddenly change our plans,” one interview said.

“What we are doing is spending £15m of capital to replace urgently-needed equipment, not just equipment that needs replacing. If it is not urgent, it doesn’t get replaced,” another source said.

Earlier this month NHS performance was criticised by the Health Foundation’s Jennifer Dixon for its “bleedin’ obvious” lack of funding. In December 2017, a King’s Fund report found there was a mismatch in demand and funding caused by “unprecedented” pressures to the service.

Vital equipment such as cancer screening scanners were also highlighted by leader of the report Prof Lestyn Williams as machines that, if invested in fully, would improve quality of patient care.

One organisation said: “We have got a situation in CT where our scanners were old, you could introduce newer scanners, the dosage could be far better for patients, they have got more sophisticated over time, so when you can’t replace those or you have to phase those in over a longer period of time, there are patient care issues.”

The health provider continued to say that they were “clinging on by our fingertips” in providing adequate patient care, and argued that the appalling surrounding service equipment was impacting patient recovery.

In telling of expectations from a provider’s financial boards, a source said: “We would come up with a list and say, ‘the board’s told us to sit within £20m this year, we’ve got a list of £40m and it’s all priority one risk.’ So we’d go through it again and then the board would come back and say ‘actually we’ve changed our mind because of the financial situation; it’s not £20m, it’s got to be £11m.’”

Investment in IT and electronic records systems was seen as urgent in some cases, and respondents within mental health cited the potential for serious quality failures where electronic recording systems do not work effectively across inpatient and community settings.


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