Meeting will discuss whether to cancel operations and close a ward at hospital

PUBLISHED: 08:12 25 September 2018 | UPDATED: 08:53 25 September 2018

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Photo: QEH

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, in King's Lynn. Photo: QEH


Emergency measures to address staffing shortfalls at a hospital placed in special measures will be discussed today.

Up to 10 extra nurses a day are needed at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn to make it safe.

The figures were revealed in papers released ahead of the board of directors meeting at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) in King’s Lynn, which will be held tooday.

It comes after this newspaper revealed on Friday how regulators NHS Improvement (NHSI) had proposed closing a ward and suspending planned surgery, including procedures for cancer patients, due to concerns over staffing levels.

The options were due to be discussed in the private portion of the meeting. But QEH chairman Dr Edward Libbey today (Monday) decided “in the interests of openness and transparency” the document detailing options to increase staffing levels on wards should be placed into the public domain.

It comes after NHSI said they found staffing levels were too low in some areas.

MORE: Proposals to close hospital ward and suspend planned surgery branded a ‘travesty and disaster’

It was found three wards had a 43pc vacancy rate, with another four wards having vacancy rates of more than 30pc.

The options for the board to discuss to remedy the situation were:

• To continue business as usual but increase the number of agency nurses through a new agency.

The documents said although this would have a financial impact “it is likely to have a smaller impact on trust finances than suspension of the elective programme”.

• Close a surgical ward.

This would mean closing 33 beds on Marham ward and would free up enough nurses. But the papers said this would “require either a reduction in medical emergency admissions or an overall reduction in length of stay”.

It would also impact other hospitals as those receiving cancer treatment or urgent care would have to be moved elsewhere. The papers said: “Initial discussions with Addenbrookes and NNUH have taken place, Addenbrookes are unable to support with any capacity, and NNUH, although have no capacity available, would look to work with the QEH to ensure that urgent patients as described above are able to continue their pathways. It is possible that there will be delays incurred in the transfer of patients already booked for surgery at QEH, and it will be vital to ensure that neither their care nor outcomes are compromised as a result of this.”

The papers said there would also be an impact on staff, with concerns doctors and nurses would leave the trust, and the loss of £1m of income a month for the hospital.

• Close a medical ward.

This would close 33 beds on Oxborough ward and also free up enough nurses. It was thought this would have a “significant benefit” as the staffing issues existed on medical wards, but some concerns around morale remained.

• A hybrid of the previous three options.

This would include bringing in extra agency staff, at a cost of around £25,000 a week, as well as moving some treatments to elsewhere and suspending non-urgent planned surgery.

It would mean the cancer and urgent planned procedures would continue, but 12 beds would be closed on both Marham and Oxborough ward.

The board of directors meeting will be held at the hospital from 11.30am.

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