Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King’s Lynn on road to recovery

Queen Elizabeth Hospital interim manager David Dean will be leaving his post next month. Picture: Ia

Queen Elizabeth Hospital interim manager David Dean will be leaving his post next month. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is on the road to recovery, its chairman said today.

David Dean, who was brought in to chair the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in October, after it was placed in special measures, said it had made real progress over the last six months.

'Things are moving in the right direction,' he said. 'It's been hard work.

'Doctors and patients are saying each ward feels different now, we're getting fewer complaints.'

Mr Dean said the 500-bed hospital was getting on top of both its staffing problems and its £13m deficit.

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He said the two were closely related, with the hospital spending £300,000 a month on agency nurses to plug shortfalls last year.

'The biggest single item of financial expenditure that caused this hospital a problem in the last financial year was agency,' he said.

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Lack of nurses was one of the reasons the hospital was placed in special measures by health watchdogs last October, along with concerns over A&E waiting times and its financial performance.

Mr Dean said the hospital was going to hire more permanent staff.

'The aim is to spend £3m on full time nurses to replace all the bank and agency staff we're using,' he said. 'Over the longer term it should be self-financing, using the money we're spending on bank and agency staff at the moment.'

The money would be enough to employ around 100 full-time nurses.

Mr Dean said A&E waiting times had improved, with 95pc of people being seen within the four hour target.

'A&E is important,' he added. 'If you get that right, the blockages in the system are removed.

'We're focussing on being a lot more efficient. It's simple things like covering for consultants while they're on holiday.'

Mr Dean said the QEH had cut the number of operations which were cancelled, which lost the hospital money.

He said a contingency planning team was now looking at what services the hospital might provide in the future - but added there was no likelihood of it being closed down, or losing key departments.

'While the commissioners will decide what services they want to keep here in King's Lynn, at least three-quarters of the services here will stay,' he said. 'There has to be a hospital here.'

Mr Dean said it was possible some specialist services, which were little-used, could be transferred elsewhere.

Despite calls for more women to be offered homebirths, he added it was not likely to offer midwives to women who chose to have their babies at home for 'the forseeable future'.

'We don't think it's feasible at the moment with the number of midwives we have,' he said. 'We want to concentrate on keeping the quality level in the hospital as high as possible.'

Mr Dean, who is leaving Norfolk to take up a post with the health watchdog Monitor, which oversees hospital foundation trusts, said he expected the Care Quality Commission would return to inspect the QEH in July.

'The CQC, when they come to inspect, will easily be able to find areas of improvement,' he said. 'We think we have made huge improvements to the quality of service.

'The hospital feels different to when I started. There's more energy about the place now.'

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