Queen Elizabeth Hospital outlines plans for the future at meeting in King’s Lynn

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has set out its vision for the future after damning reports from NHS wa

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital has set out its vision for the future after damning reports from NHS watchdogs. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: IAN BURT

Elderly patients could be offered consultations via the internet and more minor operations could be carried out at GP surgeries, as the Queen Elizabeth Hospital re-shapes its services for the future.

Senior staff outlined how the QEH was addressing concerns over staffing levels, waiting times and its finances at its annual general meeting at King's Lynn Town Hall, which was attended by around 80 NHS staff, patients and members of the public.

Patricia Wright, chief executive of the 500-bed hospital, said it would have to change the way it offered health care to reduce the time patients spent on wards and offer a wider range of care in their own homes.

'Our current position is that our regulators, both Monitor and the Care Quality Commission have concerns about our quality and our money,' Ms Wright told last night's meeting.

'We've also had what's called a rapid response review, which was undertaken by NHS England and they will be publishing that rapid response review next week.

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'We know that they continue to have concerns about the quality of care we provide and we need to show we're taking that seriously.'

Ms Wright said the hospital had to be realistic about the financial climate, which meant there would be no increase in funding.

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'We have to do the same with less, we have to be more efficient, we have to restructure our services,' she added.

Ms Wright said the QEH was looking to provide more acute care in patients' homes and expand day surgery to reduce hospital stays.

'You can come into hospital, your condition can be neutralised and you can go home,' she said. 'A lot of people tell us they want to go home.'

She added more paediatric care and care for patients nearing the end of their lives could be provided at home.

Tele-monitoring - where elderly people and their carers receive consultations online, via a service like the internet phone service Skype - could soon operate in West Norfolk.

A new outreach centre, set up at a GPs' practice in Littleport, allows minor operations to be carried out without patients needing to travel to King's Lynn.

'These are things we think we could do differently, to allow patients to have our expertise without coming to the hospital,' said Ms Wright. 'In terms of delivering services, we have to find new ways of working.'

David Stonehouse, the QEH's director of resources, said the hospital had budgeted for a deficit of at least £3m by the end of the current financial year.

'Like all NHS organisations, we're having to struggle in an age of austerity,' he said. 'No-one is going to thank us for delivering a robust financial position with the quality of the organisation shot to pieces.'

The QEH's annual report, published yesterday, said it handled 270,935 out-patient appointments in 2012/13.

It treated 35,913 in-patients, carried out 33,353 day surgery procedures, dealt with 55,636 A&E admissions and delivered 2,291 babies.

Figures showed the hospital ended the year with an £865,000 'trading deficit' on its £167m budget.

The AGM heard patients needing critical care are twice as likely to survive as anywhere else in the country, while maternity care is also among the safest in the entire NHS.

Ms Wright said the hospital was looking to 'significantly increase' the number of staff on its wards.

Two weeks ago, Health Minister Jeremy Hunt said the QEH would be given £3.9m towards improving its A&E department, which had failed to meet waiting times three quarters in a row.

Hospital bosses said the money would enable them to re-design the department to speed up transfers from ambulances and cut waiting times.

A damning report from NHS watchdog the Care Quality Commission, published in May, said the QEH was failing to meet national standards of quality and safety.

After three unannounced visits, the commission said there were not enough qualified, skilled and experienced staff to meet the needs of patients.

Its deputy director, Andrea Gordon, said: 'Although our inspectors saw some good practice, the failings we found at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital are a real concern.'

The findings of an emergency review carried out by the NHS are due to be published next week.

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