Will 2014 be a better year for the King’s Lynn Queen Elizabeth Hospital?

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn - Credit: IAN BURT

2013 was a difficult year for the King's Lynn Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH).

The year started on a positive note, with Her Majesty The Queen opening a new £3m MRI suite at the Gayton Road hospital in February.

However senior executives at the QEH already knew they were facing difficulties the previous autumn.

Regular tracking showed that the number of nurses on the wards was falling.

That led to a sustained recruitment drive, which included going as far away as Portugal to look for new staff who could plug the gaps.

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However Kate Gordon, then chairman of the hospital trust, said lack of staffing was one of the underlying problems when inspectors from the Care Quality Commission (CQC) visited in May.

Its damning inspection, published in August, said action was needed in nine areas, including its complaints procedure, obtaining people's consent to care and patients' privacy, dignity and independence, which the CQC said was 'not always respected'.

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That led Mrs Gordon to apologise to patients and families that had experienced poor care but she refused to resign at that stage, pledging instead to lead a turnaround in the hospital's fortunes.

However things did not improve quickly enough.

A follow-up inspection in August revealed there were still major concerns, with the CQC issuing four warning notices in respect of safeguarding people, staffing levels, supporting workers and assessing and monitoring the quality of services.

In October healthcare regulator Monitor put the QEH in special measures and imposed a new management team headed by chief executive Dr Manjit Obhrai, who had helped transform the crisis-hit Mid-Staffordshire Hospital.

Since then there has been a huge improvement effort, with Dr Obhrai and new trust chairman David Dean walking the wards at night to find out where the hospital was most under pressure.

For the QEH, the past year has perhaps been one to forget - but it is hoped the lessons have now been learned and that 2014 will bring much better news.

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