A backlog of repairs at hospital buildings across Sussex will cost up to £120 million to bring up to standard.

Details uncovered by The Argus reveal the county's major hospitals require work ranging from significant repairs to minor maintenance problems.

Some of the county's hospitals have old and dilapidated buildings which are in line to be either replaced or redeveloped.

The news has sparked concerns that along with possible disruption to services, the NHS could be faced with expensive costs from legal action taken by anyone injured in an accident while visiting or staying at hospital.

Problems can range from needing to fix a window or replace old and damaged doors to repairs needed to stop leaking roofs.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Worthing Hospital, Southlands Hospital in Shoreham and St Richard's Hospital in Chichester, has an outstanding repair bill of £87.7 million in 2008/9, the highest in the county.

Out of this, Worthing and Southlands had a backlog of “high risk” repairs of £3.4 million while the bill for significant repairs for all three hospitals was £28.1million.

Sue Cook, who has been a patient at Southlands and campaigned to save hospital services at Worthing, said the backlog was “appalling”.

Mrs Cook, of Fernhurst Drive, Goring, Worthing, said: “I think it is terrible that patients are being put at risk like this and it makes me nervous to think about it.

“I would have thought something like this would be a major priority.

“I think Southlands in particular has been left to it because over the past few years there has been uncertainty about its future.

“There have been long term plans to transfer inpatients from there to Worthing.

“The west wing and catering block area at Worthing are also not in a particularly good condition.”

A spokeswoman for Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust said high risk areas had been dealt with.

She said: “Last year the trust carried out a very comprehensive survey of its estate.

“It highlighted some very detailed issues regarding backlog maintenance, many of which have already been addressed and have actions planned into this year’s estate programme.

“Overall the trust does have good quality building stock.

“The main area for improvement involves the catering block at Worthing which needs urgent attention.

“The trust's capital programme for this year is £16million and by the end of the year the areas highlighted in the survey will have been addressed and major improvements carried out.”

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton and the Princess Royal Hospital in Haywards Heath, had no high risk repair bills but a £26.7million bill for significant, moderate and minor problems.

Most of the repairs and maintenance, £17.6million, were for the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, whose Barry and Jubilee buildings are more than 180 years old and cost a lot to keep in shape.

Hospital managers said many repair problems would be resolved with the planned multi-million pound redevelopment of the Royal Sussex.

The Princess Royal needs £7.7million worth of repairs while the Hurstwood Park neurological centre needs £500,000.

Tony Reynolds, chairman of the Central Sussex Independent Patients Forum, said: “I think in recent years there have been attempts to save money by not doing so much general maintenance work but not dealing with the small problems creates a risk of them developing into major ones.”

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals Trust director of facilities Ian Tait said: “Our backlog repair bill refers to the amount of money we would have to spend to bring old buildings up to the standard of a brand-new hospital.

“Every year we have to prioritise the money we have to keep all our buildings in a good state of repair, safe and in line with statutory standards.”

East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs Eastbourne District General Hospital and the Conquest in St Leonards, had a bill of £5.42million, £2.4million of which was for significant repairs.

A spokesman said: “We manage our maintenance backlog within the money we have available and prioritise the work that needs to be done on a risk-basis."