Beds lost at Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, as restructure continues

More care in the community and medical advances see Norfolk, South Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire patients discharged sooner

Bed numbers at King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital have been reduced by more than six per cent as a major restructure is carried out.

The hospital is reviewing bed provision and merging wards with a loss of 32 beds.

But health bosses have said the move will not affect patient care as the support services have been put in place to allow people to be discharged sooner.

'The emphasis is currently on providing more accessible care in the community where possible, with hospitals looking after patients who need specialist or emergency treatment. Alongside this, continuing advances in the quality of hospital medical and nursing care mean that we are now able to treat and discharge patients earlier than previously,' said medical director Dr Geoff Hunnam.

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More beds could be lost in the future as reconfiguration work continues at the hospital which serves a population of around 240,000 people in West Norfolk, South Lincolnshire and parts of Cambridgeshire.

'We are currently reviewing our bed provision and ways of improving patient experience. Discussions have been taking place with our medical, clinical and nursing staff to see how we can utilise our resources to ensure patients continue to receive the appropriate level of care in the right environment,' said Dr Hunnam.

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No-one at the hospital is currently under the threat of redundancy, but some staff have been told that their roles will be changing, he added.

The QEH had 515 beds but the amalgamation of Newton and Oxborough wards to create a short-stay and discharge area has seen their 56 beds reduce to 24 which represents a loss of 6.2pc.

Oxborough ward was provision for the elderly - some of whom had not required clinical care but were waiting to be discharged into suitable accommodation.

'They didn't really need hospital care, but could not be discharged home on their own so were waiting for accommodation to become available. There is now more provision within the community so patients are discharged quicker,' said a hospital spokesman.

The Newton ward now has ten rehabilitation beds and 14 discharge beds while Marham ward has been moved into the former Oxborough ward.

Marham ward will then be used to house patients moved from other areas while the hospital undergoes renovation and building work - including the creation of a new neo-natal intensive care department.

The bed losses come as the hospital trust continues to work with consultants from accountants KPMG at ways of identifying costs savings - although a spokesman said the two were not linked.

The hospital was criticised earlier this year for failing to meet its performance and finance targets and was warned savings must not be made at the expense of patients.

Monitor, an independent regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts, revealed it believed the QEH was in 'significant breach' of the terms of its authorisation.

The regulator said the hospital had experienced financial problems 'stemming from an ongoing failure to plan effectively.'

The announcement came after the hospital was told to make improvements following a routine investigation by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) last August.

The majority of all the improvements required by the CQC have subsequently been met.

The trust was having to report to Monitor regularly against the delivery of a financial recovery plan.

The hospital was expected to save �7.6m from its budget this year but the trust now predicts it will only achieve a �5.3m saving.

A spokesman for the trust said: 'The financial climate we are working in is becoming increasingly challenging. All NHS organisations are being expected to deliver significant levels of year-on-year financial efficiencies.

'The trust needs to continue to make a surplus whilst continuing to deliver high quality services and an excellent patient experience. This is a tough and complex challenge.'

'We anticipate a challenging savings target of over �10m for next year, so it is important the organisation has detailed achievable implementation plans for the main schemes the initial work identifies.'

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