'Political game' accusation as council fails to back hospital campaign
- Credit: QEH
County councillors have been accused of playing party politics over the future of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital - after failing to agree how to back a call for money to rebuild it.
Parts of the roof at the King's Lynn hospital are being propped up, while some critically-ill patients have had to be moved to other hospitals.
While money was awarded to rebuild the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston, the QEH missed out and is waiting to hear whether it will one of eight further new-builds planned for after 2025.
At a meeting of Norfolk County Council on Monday, Labour's Brenda Jones put forward a motion for the council to recognise the hospital was no longer fit for purpose and needs to be rebuilt.
She said: "People in Norfolk are receiving hospital care in what can only be described as a crumbling ruin.
"The council should be leading this on behalf of the people of Norfolk, but it seems to have been left to the EDP to mobilise a campaign to solve the problem."
Her motion called for the council to welcome the EDP campaign and for the authority to urge health secretary Matt Hancock to approve a new build and fast track its build and design.
But the controlling Conservative group tabled an amendment to the motion - adding in extra words that it was the building and its infrastructure which were not fit for purpose and adding that North West Norfolk Conservative MP James Wild was also campaigning on the issue.
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Bill Borrett, Conservative cabinet member for adult social care, said the extra wording was needed as he had read the Labour motion as an "unfair slur" on those who work at the hospital, because it did not make clear it was the building which was not fit for purpose.
The Conservative amendment also included wording congratulating the government for investing in a new hospital in Gorleston.
Mr Borrett said the changes helped to underline that the QEH was just as deserving of cash as the James Paget was.
He said: "They are sincere reasons. I think it makes a better, more effective motion and be more likely to have the impact and get the results we would like to see."
But Mrs Jones said she was furious with the proposed changes and withdrew the motion.
She said: "Mr Borrett tried to turn this into an opportunity to congratulate the Conservative government, which has repeatedly failed to address the problems.
"Rather than working in the interests of Norfolk the Conservatives are only interested in congratulating their friends and cronies showing again why Norfolk deserves better. Shame on them.”
But Sandra Squire, who leads the Independent group at the council, said what she branded as a "political game" did not reflect well on either the Conservatives or Labour.
She said: "The fact that the motion was withdrawn shows the level of political game-playing that is becoming usual at the county council.
"No right-minded person would have thought the motion in any way criticised the staff of the hospital, the Conservatives turning it round into another back slapping speech wasn’t entirely unexpected, and was unnecessary and pointless.
"However, withdrawing the motion completely has done nothing to improve the situation of the hospital and for the residents of West Norfolk.
"It is time that all the parties/groups came together as a united front, rather than playing political games which serve no-one."
David Powles, editor of the Eastern Daily Press, said: "It's disappointing that, on a vital issue like this, party politics cannot be put to one side for the good of those thousands of people who use the QEH.
"While I'm under no illusion that cross-party Norfolk County Council support would be what secures the money needed for the new hospital, it would have at least sent out a strong signal that this is very much the right thing to do."
To sign our petition, go online to https://tinyurl.com/7n7z5j67.
To back the campaign further, write to Mr Hancock at:
Matthew Hancock, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.