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Health / Gilbert Bain maintenance bill topped half a million last year

Meanwhile Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart has launched an online petition for a new hospital

Lerwick's Gilbert Bain Hospital.

NHS Shetland spent more than £500,000 on the maintenance of the ageing Gilbert Bain Hospital during the last financial year.

It comes as the health board continues assessing the need for a replacement hospital – something that Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart recently raised with the Scottish Government.

She said the time for “quick fixes” at the Lerwick hospital was over – and the MSP has now launched an online petition calling for a new facility.

Freedom of information figures obtained by Shetland News also show that in the current financial year more than £270,000 has already been spent on hospital maintenance.

The 2020/21 figure of £562,561 does not include any Covid related work, but it does include the installation of a replacement reverse osmosis plant.

In 2019/20 the maintenance cost was £271,195, and in the year before it stood at £232,604.

Back in 2017/18 the overall cost was £354,219, while in 2016/17 it was £242,084.

All expenditure was recorded as “backlog maintenance” so no further breakdown on the types of work was available.

Data on whether maintenance was unplanned or planned was also not available.

A spokesperson for the health board said it is “not realistically viable to compare NHS Shetland costs against other boards, as each hospital and building throughout the country vary considerably in age, usage, design and construction”.

Shetland MSP Wishart added: “Last month I called for a new hospital. We all know buildings need to be maintained and older buildings need greater maintenance.

“So-called backlog maintenance has cost almost £2 million for the Gilbert Bain in the last seven years. What isn’t clear is whether this figure includes staff time dealing with unplanned and unforeseen issues.

“A new purpose-built hospital, fit for the 21st century needs of Shetland, would prevent such sums being spent on backlog maintenance, and instead ensure more planned and preventative maintenance.

“Planning for the future now will save us costs along the road.”

Responding to Wishart’s concerns, the Scottish Government said in a letter earlier this week that the strategic assessment of the hospital is scheduled to go before its capital investment group in early 2022 for consideration and approval.

The Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick has been operating in its current form since the 1960s.

In 2019 NHS Shetland board members commissioned an assessment of the hospital after hearing about the constraints the building is placing on the health service.

This assessment was due to be presented to the health board early next year but it is now expected to go in front of members in December after good progress was made.

A previous report explained that there is little opportunity at the hospital for expansion or variation to keep it up with modern standards.

It said that while the physical condition is “generally of a good standard and has been well maintained over the years”, much of the building needs to be renewed.

Many of the windows, for instance, either no longer open or close and need replaced, the report said, while electrics, heating and pipework are “significantly past their life expectancy”.

During a visit to Shetland at the end of September national clinical director Jason Leitch and NHS Scotland chief Caroline Lamb said the isles’ healthcare needs should be considered before looking at how services may look.

“It may be that Shetland needs a new build, but let’s start from the point of view of what the healthcare and social care output should be,” Leitch said.