The Department of Health arranged at least £39m in extra ‘essential’ capital funding for foundation trusts where patient safety or ‘ongoing operations’ were at risk because of maintenance backlogs, HSJ can reveal.

Documents released under the Freedom of Information Act show the workings of the DH’s independent trust finance facility (ITFF) in 2014-15.

This committee used to deal solely with requests for capital funding from foundation trusts, but now assesses requests for money, revenue or capital from any trust. The ITFF increasingly deals with applications from trusts in financial distress.

An application to the ITFF from Monitor in July said: “It has become apparent that a number of trusts… have reduced capital expenditure, often for a sustained period, in order to mitigate the impact of income and expenditure performance on cash balances.”

The documents show six trusts given more capital funding than they would otherwise be entitled to under the funding system because of the backlog.

In July, the ITFF approved £39.3m for the trusts, two of which no longer exist - Mid Staffordshire FT was dissolved in October, and Heatherwood and Wexham Park FT was taken over by Frimley Park Hospital FT in the same month.

Work at Milton Keynes Hospital FT included upgrading the phone network, with the trust’s application saying the organisation “has had a number of incidents over the past six months where server instability has caused a serious incident to be raised”.

It also said ultrasound, ventilators and anaesthetic monitors were on its list for replacement, as they were “considered [at] high risk of decommission”.

Sherwood Forest Hospitals FT’s application saw it ask for items including an “operating table”, intensive treatment unit beds, theatre lights and colonoscopes.

Kettering General Hospital FT’s application for extra funding included £1.1m for a new maternity theatre because current facilities faced “significant risk of closure”, plus £4.4m to upgrade the boiler after it failed.

The overview document stresses that the applications do not “represent a funding request for capital expenditure associated with solvent or insolvent restructurings”.

Last year, HSJ reported that hospital trusts had applied to the ITFF for financial help in 2013-14 to fend off legal threats from suppliers, update medical equipment and even keep electricity supplies flowing.

The total value of trust bailouts paid out by the DH so far this financial year has already outstripped last year’s total.

HSJ analysis of data from the DH showed that it paid £840.8m in the first three-quarters of 2014-15 to help trusts that were running at a deficit, compared with the £759.8m in 2013-14.