Plea for new hospital as roof problems force patients to be sent away
- Credit: QEH
West Norfolk needs a brand new hospital. This is the message from bosses at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, as they revealed the building's roof has forced them to send critical care patients dozens of miles away for treatment.
The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn has 131 props in place holding up its roof including in its critical care unit, physio gym and birthing suite to ensure it can continue safely.
Chief executive Caroline Shaw and chairman Prof Steve Barnett spoke of the ongoing issues which have been of "heightened concern" for the trust, with 51 new props added in the last 10 weeks.
Mrs Shaw said: "There is an absolutely huge need to maintain that programme of work to do some interim development to keep us safe. We absolutely do need a new hospital, I make no bones about it."
She said it was "very difficult" as safety checks required areas to be out of action while work was carried out, adding: "That came to a crescendo last week when we had to close our intensive care unit to enable us to prop it.
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"Part of the physio gym is closed, and part of it is open and that is what we are dealing with, hospital patients do not go away when these things are happening and we still have to deliver services."
On March 11, the hospital declared a critical incident over its roof which closed its critical care unit resulting in the cancellation of elective surgeries and on a "number of occasions" critical care patients had been stabilised at the QEH before transported to Norwich or Cambridge.
Mrs Shaw said: "It is about maintaining safety but to the families if you live locally it is hugely disappointing that your relative is down the road some 50 to 60 miles away.
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"First and foremost is the safety of our patients and our staff, we brought in a plan where we decanted into theatre recovery and into theatre. Running a hospital you do have to maintain some form of critical care because patients need it.
"The downside is, by introducing that we have to cancel some of our elective programme because it is about space and about people and that has meant as we're moving into restoration and recovery it has been hugely disappointing for some of our patients as we have not been able to do that surgery."
The hospital set out its case last year that a decade or repair works would cost £536m, while a new build would cost around £636m.
The trust's dream is funding for a new hospital was secured is to create a health care campus with primary and community care services nearby and some retail.
Prof Barnett said: "It's not just the case of a new hospital being required because of the roof and the walls. It's an opportunity for us to provide the sorts of services in modern environments that the patients that we treat and their families and our staff deserve.
"It's beginning to show its age in a number of ways and in some respects in ways that are quite potentially dangerous for patients and staff using the facilities.
"We are not providing unsafe care. It is consistently safe and high quality. One of our risks that we are managing effectively at the moment relates to the condition of the roof in certain parts of the building."
At a meeting of Norfolk's health and overview and scrutiny committee last Thursday, members agreed to lobby local MPs and the Department for Health and Social Care to support the rebuild after the QEH was missed off the list of 40 hospitals to be rebuilt in the coming years.
On the wishlist for the chief executive is more day care facilities, ambulatory care for cardiac patients and more flexibility in ward areas as the proposed build would not be "like for like".
Mrs Shaw said: "There's absolutely huge opportunity to do things differently which would help with the demand, the management of waiting lists and improve clinical outcomes. It would improve staff satisfaction.
"Having come from brand new hospitals in the past working in such crumbly environments isn't conducive.
"This isn't just about a hospital this is about a community and about delivery of care and we are very clear about that."
Last week, the government granted £20.6m to the hospital for repair works but further considerations are not expected to take place until November.
Mrs Shaw said at a time when nationally cash was tight the hospital was delighted to receive funding, but it would not stop them presenting their case.
"Common sense and common logic would say the preface should be a new build," she said,
"We need £20.6m just to keep checking, proping and making the hospital safe and building accommodation that we can do this decant areas.
"We have a really clear programme to keep us safe to continue that until we get new facilities."
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said it will shortly announce criteria for eight schemes to be included in the new hospital programme.
The spokesman said: “We fully recognise the need to invest in improving health infrastructure across the country, including where Trusts have identified significant issues."