£554m to stop roof falling in at Norfolk hospital
- Credit: Sonya Duncan
The cost of stopping the roof falling in at a Norfolk hospital will come to almost as much as building a replacement, MPs have been warned.
In a letter to politicians, seen by the EDP, the chair of the trust which runs the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn says “living with the risks” associated with its 40-year-old structure will cost £554m over the next decade.
Prof Steve Barnett says building a new hospital to serve West Norfolk and the Fens would cost £679m.
The QEH was originally intended to have a working life of 30 years, when the first patients arrived on its Gayton Road site in the early 1980s.
It was one of a number of so-called “best-buy” hospitals built from prefabricated sections, including a roof made of concrete planks.
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Mr Barnett says the QEH and 11 other best-buy hospitals including the James Paget, West Suffolk and Hinchinbrooke are under “heightened scrutiny” following the collapse of a school roof made from similar materials two years ago.
He adds: “If there is a failure in any of the best-buy hospitals, then there will be significant consequences for all of these hospitals – involving the closure of hospitals.”
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Mr Barnett said both the James Paget and West Suffolk were included in the government’s HIP (Health Improvement Programme) list.
Six trusts will share £2.7bn earmarked for new hospitals, while the two east anglian hospitals are among 21 awarded part of £100m set aside in seed funding to develop the business case for a rebuild.
The QEH is now one of 16 hospitals competing for a share of a further funding pot, from which eight will be chosen to deliver a new hospital by 2030.
The letter to MPs James Wild, Liz Truss, George Freeman, Stephen Barclay, John Hayes, Duncan Baker and Jerome Mayhew adds: “We remain hopeful that QEH will be a serious contender for one of the further eight schemes that will compete to attract future funding to deliver new hospitals by 2030.
“This is where we request your help please. We would like you, as our local MPs for the populations we serve, to work with us and to act as a collective voice in making the strongest possible case to bring a new hospital to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk in the years to come and secure the future sustainability of a hospital that serves patients across Norfolk, Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.”
South West Norfolk MP and international trade secretary Liz Truss said: “I am fully supportive of the trust in securing future investment for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. I have spoken to the chief executive Caroline Shaw and will be working with parliamentary colleagues in making the case to the Health Secretary Matt Hancock. The hospital already has a number of transformational plans in place including a new nursing school with the College of West Anglia and the purchase of the Sandringham Hospital which will provide 30 additional beds plus two extra operating theatres.
“The trust chairman has presented an extremely compelling case and with significant future growth forecast in West Norfolk, access to quality health care is a priority.”
North West Norfolk MP James Wild, whose constituency includes the hospital, said: “I’m disappointed that QEH has not been added to the list of new hospitals announced in the previous phases of the health infrastructure programme.
“However, QEH has put forward a strong case for investment and I’ll keep working with the trust and other MPs to ensure it is a serious contender for one of the eight additional new hospital schemes. I’ve spoken to the Health Secretary to underline that case.”
Senior managers believe the QEH has a “robust” case for investment which would future-proof the hospital. Disappointment that it was not among those being given funding comes days after the QEH completed the purchase of the BMI Sandringham - a 32-bed former private hospital on the Gayton Road site - for an undisclosed sum.
The Sandringham, which has two operating theatres, will be used to help clear the backlog in elective surgery caused by the coronavirus pandemic. Its 76 staff have also transferred to the QEH.
Sarah Jones, the QEH’s deputy chief operating officer, said: “It’s a huge relief. Even before Covid, we’ve always had pressures through the winter when we see increased demand and we lose our elective bed base. This means we’ll be able to carry on.”
In the light of the impact of coronavirus on the NHS, the government say trusts must deliver 70pc of their pre-Covid level of routine operations such as hip or knee replacements or gynaecological procedures.
The QEH’s normal level is around 285 procedures a month, of which 60pc (171) is currently being delivered. But the Sandringham will have capacity to perform 85 operation a month, bringing the hospital up to delivering around 250 a month - far in excess of the government target.
Prof Barnett said the hospital had learned valuable lessons as it tackled the first wave of Covid-19.
It has so far treated 462 patients, of whom 154 died, while three are currently being treated.
“We’re now more familiar with the virus and more familiar with managing it,” he said. “The viral load seems to be less, people are less ill when they’ve got it.
“There’s confidence at some point next year a vaccine may be available.”
Last month health watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) made an unannounced visit to the QEH, which was placed in special measures two years ago. Concerns over care were raised during a follow-up inspection last year.
In a report to the hospital’s ruling board Caroline Shaw, its chief executive, said: “I am very pleased to say that the initial verbal feedback from the CQC was very positive. The CQC stated that the organisation feels very different, staff are more engaged and were proud to share their improvements. The CQC cited clear examples of where care for our patients and their families has improved since their visit in 2019.
“Most importantly, the CQC letter which summarised inspectors’ initial findings, said: “Throughout all clinical areas, we observed kind and compassionate care from all staff. Patients were treated respectfully and included in treatment planning.”