'Absolutely vital' - why backing hospital campaign is so important

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, has 131 props keeping up its roof.

An example of one of the 131 props in place around the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, including its kitchen and Rudham ward. - Credit: QEH

People whose lives have been transformed by care at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital have backed a petition calling for a rebuild, describing it as "absolutely vital."

More than 5,900 people have signed the EDP's petition to build a new hospital for King's Lynn after it was revealed the QEH roof is falling apart. Currently around 194 props are said to be holding it up. 

Staff previously said they were seeing the building collapse around them on a daily basis, fearing the situation is "Grenfell waiting to happen."

And those who have received life-saving treatment at the hospital have said it is a shame that staff are having to work in these conditions.

Debbie Stewart, a Stoke Ferry funeral director, said there were no other words to describe the need to back the campaign other than it being "absolutely vital."

The mum-of-two praised staff at the hospital for saving her life after receiving treatment for severe sepsis, a lung infection and Covid earlier this year.

Debbie Stewart of R H Bond in Stoke Ferry said Queen Elizabeth Hospital staff saved her life.

Debbie Stewart of R H Bond in Stoke Ferry said Queen Elizabeth Hospital staff saved her life after she was admitted to hospital in January with severe sepsis and a lung infection. - Credit: Debbie Stewart

Had she stayed at home for 48 hours longer it would have been too late for her, she was told.

Speaking about the petition, she said: "It's got to happen, if it doesn't and we don't have the facility for the care for people like myself, then my family would have been another bereaved family.

"People need to get behind this really important campaign."

Debbie Stewart of R H Bond Funeral Directors in Stoke Ferry.

Debbie Stewart of R H Bond Funeral Directors in Stoke Ferry. - Credit: Chris Kot

Mrs Stewart said staff at the hospital deserve better after witnessing first hand the level of care they deliver.

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She said: "A doctor gave up a day off to come and see me, he didn't even know me.

"It's a shame that people are sacrificing everything they have got, lunch and drink breaks to care for people, and they have to work in such appalling conditions."

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

Julie Long, a heart failure specialist nurse for Norfolk Community Health and Care, said the King's Lynn hospital is a "pivotal part" in community health care, with it increasingly being expected to deliver more specialist health care.

She said: "As a community nurse for many years I have relied on the QEH to provide acute care in a local hospital.

Julie Long, a community matron for the Downham Market area, shaved her head for the Astro Brain Tumour Fund.

Julie Long, a community matron for Norfolk Community Health and Care NHS Trust in the Downham Market area, shaved her head in a show of support for her friend Fraser Miller and to raise money for the Astro Brain Tumour Fund. - Credit: Julie Long

"Many of the patients I look after are very frail and to travel long distances for emergency health reasons can have a detrimental effect on their overall health, welfare and subsequent recovery. 

"The staff work really hard and care about their patients, however it makes the job very difficult in a building which is past it's sell-by date."

She said her friend, who was diagnosed with glioblastoma brain tumour, became very unwell with an infection last weekend, and thanks to the QEH he made a speedy recovery and is home again.

She added: "Only having to travel to King's Lynn was a lot better for him when he felt so unwell and his treatment could commence sooner."

The hospital's board of directors were told in a meeting earlier this month that planks had been deemed faulty "beyond the tolerance level", and that steel work had been carried out to support them.

Its critical care unit had previously been forced to shut and some patients moved to other wards while remedial work was carried out.

Chief executive Caroline Shaw told the board that the trust would continue to pursue its long-term plan for a new hospital in west Norfolk.

Last week it was revealed contractors are on-site carrying out daily checks of the roof as part of a programme of essential maintenance work.

The QEH was not included in the list of 40 hospitals given the go-ahead to begin work on rebuilds announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year. It is now one of 16 from which eight will be chosen to be rebuilt between 2025 and 2030.

To sign the petition visit change.org/p/matthew-hancock-mp-build-a-new-hospital-for-king-s-lynn