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Fears providing ‘second-class service’ at West Norfolk hospital would be ‘admission of defeat’

MP Henry Bellingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

MP Henry Bellingham. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Archant

Fears have been raised that a Norfolk hospital could become a “second-rate service” if cancer surgery is moved to Norwich and a ward closed.

Queen Elizabeth Hospital chief executive Jon Green. Photo: QEHQueen Elizabeth Hospital chief executive Jon Green. Photo: QEH

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn could close one ward and cancer patients could face 80-mile round trip to Norwich for surgery, it emerged on Tuesday, as the failing hospital struggled to attract nursing staff.

It comes after a similar proposal was put forward by regulator NHS Improvement in September, but after push back from staff representatives and hospital’s board chose instead to try to hire more temporary staff.

However a leaked memo revealed that had not been successful, and therefore the plan was back on the table and would be discussed again at this month’s board meeting.

Peter Passingham, Unison regional organiser, said: “We can’t let second-rate services become business as usual at QEH.”

Unison regional organiser Peter Passingham. Photo: UnisonUnison regional organiser Peter Passingham. Photo: Unison

While North West Norfolk MP Sir Henry Bellingham said it would be an “admission of defeat”.

But QEH chief executive Jon Green said it was just one option on the table and the hospital had to ensure safe care.

But Mr Passingham said if it went ahead it would be a “body blow”.

He said: “Moving patients and staff across the county for elective surgery means already overburdened health workers adding hours of travel onto their days to perform surgery on patients moved miles from their friends and family when they most need support. It’s simply not right.

Cancer patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital may have to travel to Norwich. Photo: QEHCancer patients at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital may have to travel to Norwich. Photo: QEH

“Instead of consulting staff about these damaging proposals, QEH bosses have put 70 workers on notice that they may have to spend the winter travelling across the county to do their jobs. The people of west Norfolk deserve better than this.”

If the proposal goes ahead, cancer surgery patients will instead be treated at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital (NNUH), which is also in special measures, in ward space freed up by one team recently moving to the new Quadram Institute.

Sir Henry added he was very concerned about the prospect.

He said he supported management and did not have a problem with some patients travelling to Norwich or Cambridge for specialist treatment.

But he added: “However what I understand is being looked at here is the closure of a ward and the removal of whole surgical teams to Norwich.”

“I really cannot begin to see how this could be either a good use of staff resources or indeed something that would be fair to individual patients and their families. It would also be an admission of defeat on the part of the QEH and would seriously damage morale. So I would urge management to show more ambition as well as listening to local people.”

• Have you been affected? Email geraldine.scott@archant.co.uk

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