“Special measures” hospital given 67 days to improve

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is being placed in "special measures". Picture: Ian Burt

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is being placed in "special measures". Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Archant � 2004

An under-fire hospital which has been placed in 'special measures' has been given 67 days to make urgent improvements - with fears raised about its future if it does not turn the corner.

Managers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) and regulators finally broke their silence about the crisis engulfing the King's Lynn hospital to reveal that a new management team would be imposed on the trust to help it overcome its failings.

Two days after MPs first leaked the news that an urgent shake-up would take place, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) released its latest inspection report which issued the hospital with four warning notices. They are in respect of staffing levels, safeguarding people, supporting workers and monitoring the quality of services.

It said the QEH had to be compliant in those areas by December 31, with healthcare regulator Monitor saying it would impose a new interim chief executive, improvement director and chairman of the trust which runs the hospital to help turn things around.

The QEH will also be 'paired' with the highly-rated Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital in London to support it during the changes.

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UNISON regional organiser Phil Gooden said: 'I think ultimately we have to ask the question that if the trust is unable to turn the corner, what's going to happen to it?'

He added that if the hospital was to have a future, it had to be supported by the NHS and the area's MPs to make improvements. 'If this place goes, it will have massive implications for local people,' he said.

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Stephen Hay, managing director of provider regulation at Monitor, said: 'It is clear that the current leadership of the trust is not the right one to bring about the changes needed.'

Dr Mark Blunt, joint medical director at the QEH, said the findings by the CQC and from a Rapid Response Review conducted by a wide range of NHS organisations were 'appropriately critical of the trust'.

However he insisted Monitor's intervention should be seen as a positive outcome for the hospital.

He said: 'It is giving us the opportunity to focus on quality,' adding that there was now an 'increased urgency about improvements'.

Joint medical director Dr Bev Watson added that it was an 'incredibly positive' move and that the hospital 'would really welcome these new people coming in'.

Both she and Dr Blunt apologised to staff and patients who had received poor care, saying: 'We recognise we need to make substantial changes.'

Central to those changes will be recruiting more staff, with a further 36 fully-trained nurses joining before Christmas.

That will put the hospital close to the target it has set itself for staffing levels. Dr Blunt said the QEH was currently 'extremely close' to the minimum staffing requirement but still had work to do to reach the hospital's own targets, which go beyond that.

Dr Watson added that the new board was also likely to take a more direct, hands-on approach. She admitted that the board had perhaps been slow to react to potential problems in the past.

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