'An insult' - Matt Hancock accused over secret visit to crumbling hospital

Matt Hancock on his visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. 

Matt Hancock on his visit to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn, which is looking to secure funding for a new building. - Credit: QEH

Health secretary Matt Hancock is accused of running scared after a hush-hush visit to the crumbling Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King's Lynn. 

Mr Hancock's visit was attended by a limited number of media organisations - which did not include the EDP, which is campaigning for the hospital to be rebuilt.

The snub meant he dodged many of the tough questions that he would have faced on behalf of the many thousands of patients.

Jo Rust, secretary of the King's Lynn and District Trade Council, has been leading weekly protests to raise the profile of the hospital's condition.

She said:  "I think it's a significant indication as to the vulnerability Matt Hancock is feeling to not invite the EDP.

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"I think it is an insult the EDP wasn't invited. He wasn't prepared to face a reporter from the EDP."

The roof of the QEH is currently being held up by almost 200 props as it waits to hear whether it will be one of eight new-builds planned for after 2025.

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Repairing the roof is estimated at £550m or a new building would cost £679m. The government has given the QEH £20m for urgent repair work.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said it could not comment on which media were invited. 

Jo Ruse at the protest to encourage a rebuild of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn.

Jo Rust, Secretary of King’s Lynn and District Trades council, at the protest to encourage a rebuild of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn. - Credit: Ella Wilkinson

Alexandra Kemp, independent county councillor. Picture: Ian Burt

Alexandra Kemp, independent county councillor. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Independent councillor Alexandra Kemp said: "I think it is very important that he's come down. He needs to grant the money now for the rebuild of the QEH.

"I hope he is coming away from his visit having seen how dedicated the staff are and how hard they are working and how the safety of the staff and of patients must be at the top of the list. 

"I hope he takes away from his visit the Queen Elizabeth does not need to work on a business case for a rebuild, the case is already made.  

"He should have met everybody and we would like to speak to him." 

Matt Hancock visits the Queen Elizabeth Hospital

On his visit, the health secretary opened the hospital's Sandringham Unit and took a tour of the building which is currently needing 200 props. - Credit: Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Mr Hancock had a private tour of the hospital before he opened the new Sandringham unit.

QEH's chief executive Caroline Shaw and chairman Prof Steve Barnett said: "Investing in our estate and digital infrastructure is central to our continuous improvement journey and this includes our ambition to bring a new hospital to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, which is no more than our patients, local community and staff deserve."

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Kings LynnThe Chief Executive of the QEH Caroline Shaw

The results have been welcomed by Queen Elizabeth Hospital chief executive Caroline Shaw - Credit: Sonya Duncan

North West Norfolk MP James Wild had invited Mr Hancock to view the current situation at the hospital and said during the tour he spoke to patients on a couple of wards where props were in place.

The new MP for North West Norfolk, James Wild, speaks at the inquiry into the development of land we

North West Norfolk MP James Wild who has been pressing the case for a new hospital - Credit: Denise Bradley

He said: "I will continue to champion the case for QEH to be one of the government’s new hospital schemes as this is crucial to continued improvement in patient care and health outcomes for people in West Norfolk and beyond.”

Mr Hancock tweeted about the visit and said that he had heard the case for a new hospital.

A copy of the EDP's petition, now signed by 7,300 people, along with two metal roof poles, similar to those supporting the hospital roof, was delivered to Mr Hancock's constituency office in May. 

Norwich Evening News and Norwich Advertiser editor David Powles. Photo : Steve Adams

Norwich Evening News and Norwich Advertiser editor David Powles. Photo : Steve Adams - Credit: Steve Adams

EDP editor David Powles said: "Matt Hancock's failure to invite the EDP to cover this visit is a calculated snub to this paper for daring to challenge him over the disgraceful condition of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

"More than that, it is an insult to our many readers who use this hospital. We are driven to represent their interests and, by barring our journalists, Mr Hancock's team robbed our readers of having their questions answered.

"We won't be put off, though. We will continue to fight and campaign until the people of King's Lynn and West Norfolk get the 21st century hospital they deserve."

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