• Ability to keep patients safe becoming “increasingly untenable” due to capital squeeze
  • Cambridge chief says trusts needs to expand capacity and address fire risks
  • Trust was not on ministers list of 20 capital projects announced this week

Keeping patients safe at a major trauma centre will become “increasingly untenable” because the trust is being denied capital funding, its chief executive has warned.

Cambridge University Hospital Foundation Trust’s Roland Sinker raised the concerns at the trust’s July board meeting. The trust was not on the government’s list of 20 capital projects to get funding signed off this week.

Mr Sinker said in his report for the meeting: “Capital commitments are being reduced as far as possible without compromising the safety of patients and staff. This position will, however, become increasingly untenable as the year progresses.”

The trust’s multi-million pound capital loan bids for 2018-19 and 2019-20 had not been approved, the report said.

A review of the board’s priorities by the trust’s chair in the July board papers said the “capital position and lack of access to capital cash is very worrying and will be a key theme throughout 2019-20”.

The 1,000-bed trust has long complained it is significantly short of short of bed capacity.

The issues were reflected in the board’s risk register. Risks surrounding a potential failure to address compliance with fire safety laws and decent capacity “caused by insufficient capital funding” and its backlog maintenance were all allocated high risk ratings.

The warning comes despite the trust announcing in December it had been allocated £19.2m to allow for a capacity extension and fire safety works and £100m for a specialist children’s hospital it is targeting opening by 2023.

The preferred option for the £19.2m funding was signed off by the board in June 2019. The board papers said the allocation would be used to fund a two-storey “decant facility”, a temporary unit used to treat patients so upgrade work can be carried out in other areas of the hospital.

The board papers said: “This option would maximise the use of the £19.2m capital allocation, help build the momentum for the Children’s Hospital and has the potential to generate donations that could be used to fund the capital funding gap.”

A trust statement said it welcomed the funding to contribute towards shoring up the trust’s longer term capital requirements but that it was still working with NHS England and Improvement to address its more immediate in year problems.

The statement said: “We were pleased to receive £100m for a new children’s hospital, and £19.2m for a decant facility that will allow us to prioritise urgent fire and safety works, as part of the previous capital announcement last December. This will help us to significantly improve our facilities in the longer term.

“Patient safety is our top priority; we constantly monitor and review risks relating to our buildings and equipment to make sure that this is not compromised. We continue to work proactively with NHSE/I to manage our capital position and secure the funding we need for this year to maintain the estate.”