Union seeks assurances over the future of A&E unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn

Work is under way on a £3.9m upgrade of the A&E unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. But trade unio

Work is under way on a £3.9m upgrade of the A&E unit at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. But trade unionists are demanding assuarances over its long-term future. Picture: Matthew Usher. - Credit: Matthew Usher

Trade unionists plan to lobby a meeting of health officials in King's Lynn.

West Norfolk Clinical Commissioning Group's governing body is meeting at West Norfolk council's King's Court offices on Thursday morning.

While the agenda for the meeting has not yet been made public, it is expected to include the latest on the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which has been placed in special measures by patient watchdogs.

Work has started on a £3.9m upgrade to the A&E unit at the hospital, which has been criticised for missing its waiting times target of 95pc of people being seen within four hours for three quarters in a row.

But the GMB union said it would be seeking assurances about the long-term future of emergency care at the hospital. It fears that it could be among those whose A&E units are 'downgraded' if the government decides to adopt a 'two tier' system proposed in a new report.

GMB organiser Steve Sweeney said: 'These are worrying times for people depending on the NHS in this area.

'The recently released Keogh Report which sets out a vision for a two-tier emergency system, including the reduction of local A&E departments, has worrying implications both for the future of the NHS and for hospitals such as the QEH in King's Lynn.

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'Patients face being sent for treatment in either Norwich or Peterborough if services are downgraded, a move which could have life-threatening consequences.

'GMB are further concerned that the Tory policy of starving the NHS of finances will lead to the potential privatisation of services, and the Trust has already indicated that it could take advantage of the 'evolving' private sector market.'

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Inadequate staffing levels and poor financial performance were criticised after inspections earlier this year by the Care Quality Commission.

The 500-bed hospital was put in special measures a month ago. Its chair resigned and new managers were brought in to oversee its recovery.

The hospital, which expects to be £3m in the red by the end of the financial year, dealt with more then 55,000 A&E admissions last year.

GMB members are also joining forces with the Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk, which is calling for the shortage of acute psychiatric beds to be addressed.

The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust, which is facing budget cuts of 20pc by 2016, has put forward plans to cut up to 20pc.

The Campaign to Save Mental Health Services in Norfolk and Suffolk is being launched tonight (7pm) at the at the Vauxhall Centre in Johnson Place, Norwich.

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