• Hundreds of diagnostic scans cancelled after equipment failed multiple times
  • Equipment failures stem from historic underinvestment and lack of money for replacements, report says
  • Shortage of capital to invest in equipment increasing risk of further impact on care

A major London trust had to cancel hundreds of MRI scans after ageing equipment stopped working, causing it to miss its two-week diagnostic target for the first time in 14 months.

In January, a scanner due for replacement failed multiple times at Barts Health Trust’s Whipps Cross site, resulting in “220 patients needing to be rebooked and 172 MRI breaches”, according to its March board papers

The north east London trust reported in March that it is highly likely it will not be able to put enough money into its equipment replacement budget “to support safe, effective and timely care”.

The risk rating for “capital funding constraints prevent[ing] adequate investment in medical equipment to support safe, effective and timely care” in the board papers has been upgraded from “likely” to “highly likely”. This was because of “the increasingly apparent and significant impact of historic underinvestment in medical equipment” as well as the number of pieces of equipment being used beyond their planned life and “the lack of capital loan funding… to support an optimal equipment replacement programme”.

Last month, the £1.5bn-turnover trust was taken out of quality special measures after four years, but it remains in financial special measures.

NHS Improvement estimated this year the trust will produce an underlying deficit of £138m. It also has substantial public finance initiative debts, with annual payments of £120m.

Barts relies on loans from the centre for its capital funding. The trust’s liabilities currently exceed its assets by £141.5m.

The trust got a £5m loan from the centre at the start of the financial year and wanted a further £24m. But, in the autumn, it was asked to reconsider that total because of funding constraints within the NHS as well as doubts about the trust’s ability to spend the capital by the end of the year, chief executive Alwen Williams told the March board meeting.

The trust reapplied for a £14m loan covering essential expenditure, which has yet to be confirmed.