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Moving cancer operations from King’s Lynn to Norwich would create “serious risks”, say doctors

PUBLISHED: 10:14 27 November 2018 | UPDATED: 10:24 27 November 2018

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.  Picture: Ian Burt

Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

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Senior doctors say proposals to send cancer patients from King’s Lynn to Norwich for surgery are unsafe.

Protesters outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which could send cancer patients to Norwich for operations  Picture: Chris BishopProtesters outside the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which could send cancer patients to Norwich for operations Picture: Chris Bishop

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital’s staff medical committee met representatives of the local clinical commissioning group (CCG) to discuss the plans.

Senior managers say they the hospital does not have enough nurses despite a recruitment drive and the proposal is one of a number being considered to help the QEH prepare for winter pressures.

But after the staff committee meeting, its chairman consultant surgeon Harald Geogloman, said: “When discussing the most recent proposal for cancer patients to have their surgery at the NNUH in case beds become short at the QEH, it became clear that our local CCG was not informed of any such proposal and none of its details.

“They were understandably unable to comment on the details of the proposal, but shared our concerns regarding safety for patients and QEH staff, as the idea seems to be QEH staff travelling as well and performing the operations in Norwich.

“The HMSC [staff medical committee] is against the proposal as it creates many serious risks for staff and patients, for very little gain.”

The QEH was placed in special measures two months ago after it was rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission.

Among their findings, inspectors said low nurse staffing levels were “impacting on patient safety”.

The board of the hospital is meeting today, although chief executive Jon Green has said the proposed transfer of operations is not on the agenda.

Data for October shows 30pc of posts on the medical assessment unit were filled by agency nurses, with 19pc on Stanhoe and Terrington wards and 15pc in A&E.

One report before today’s meeting revealed that new registered nurses joining the trust would be given a “new hire payment” of £2,000 in instalments at six months, 12 months and two years.

Mr Geogloman said: “Even though nursing staffing levels are low and retention and recruitment of nurses is the single most important problems to be resolved, the issue was only briefly discussed due to the absence of a representative of the senior nursing team.

“Several clinicians used the opportunity to brief the audience about improvement projects particularly in relation to improved patient care leading to reduced bed occupancy and also admission avoidance. “Many of these were clinically trialled but failed to secure funding and approval within the hospital. Again the CCG representatives were mainly unaware of these projects and keen to learn more details so they could consider the funding.

“It was very clear that communication of the Trust with relevant outside organisations, but particularly within the organisation requires significant improvements.

“Prof Steve Barnett as the new chair of the hospital trust declared that he will make this to one of his important and immediate targets.”

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