'Let's get this built' - Unanimous support for new £12m Norfolk hospital unit

The £12.5 million endoscopy unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn is set to open to patients next year.

The £12.5 million endoscopy unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn is set to open to patients next year. - Credit: Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust

Proposals for a new £12.5m endoscopy unit at Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) passed a major hurdle, after they were unanimously backed by the local authority's planning committee.

Health bosses had applied for permission to build the two-storey centre in the grounds of the existing site in King's Lynn, after the hospital was given £20.6 million in emergency funding.

The QEH, which was built with an expected working life of 30 years in the late 1970s, is deteriorating and in urgent need of repair. Parts of the roof have been propped up to stop them falling in. The total number of of props and temporary supports in place currently is at 214 across 56 areas of the site.

It needs £554m to maintain its building or £679m for a new build. The EDP set up a campaign earlier this year calling for the hospital to be replaced

Councillors all agreed that the new centre was urgently needed. One of them, Martin Storey, said: "There should be no delays at all in this application. The hospital can't afford it and we can't afford it."

The 400-bed hospital said the investment would help modernise its facilities for patients, their families and staff. It said the endoscopy facility is the "next phase in the evolution of care at the hospital" and it would be built on what is currently a 59-space day surgery car park.

The existing endoscopy facility was described as being "too small to accommodate current and future demands".

Sarah Jones, director of strategic estates at QEH, said: "The roof of our hospital requires immediate fail safe work to ensure the building remains safe for us to deliver care to patients.

The roof at the Queen Elizabeth's Hospital in King's Lynn was in need of urgent repairs.

The roof at the Queen Elizabeth's Hospital in King's Lynn was in need of urgent repairs. - Credit: QEH

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"We need to create decant space which will allow us to continue to function as normal, including creating space to allow us to close theatres over a rolling period."

She said the new unit, which will have four scope rooms, will help them meet demand it is expecting over the next five years and a current "long waiting list".

She added: "We've moved the car parking spaces to an alternative location on the hospital site, and have plans to increase the spaces in the coming months."

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, has 131 props keeping up its roof.

An example of one of the 131 props in place around the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, including its kitchen and Rudham ward. - Credit: QEH

The meeting also heard that 12 trees would be lost as a result of the work, but that the majority would be replaced.

Ms Jones said: "We've been allocated £12.5m that needs to be spent by the end of March next year."

Nichola Hunter, associate director of estates and facilities at QEH, said: "It is a piece of the jigsaw puzzle that needs to be completed to keep our patients and staff safe.

"Over the last 12 months we have had significant issues with our roof, requiring the closure of our critical care unit plus a number of wards. 

"We are the most propped hospital in the country."

She said working with a structural engineer they need to create a "failsafe" across the whole of the first floor of the hospital by fitting a steel structure under concrete panels.

She added: "We don't have additional space and need to create two decamp wards.

"Our new hospital campaign is so important.

"If we do not deliver the building in this timeframe we lose the money and put the decamp programme and budget at risk.

"The QEH has been underfunded for years and we want to take this opportunity to give our staff and patients the safest environment we can, with the funds that have been allocated this year."

Some concerns were raised on behalf of nearby residents over ditches and drainage towards the bottom of the hospital site.

And councillors also discussed access to the new unit, a pavement and road in front of it, and were told the plans included crossings to a car park and a pavement.

Chair Vivienne Spikings said: "All of our residents in west Norfolk will be really grateful when this comes forward. Let's get this built."

More than 9,000 people have signed the EDP's Rebuild the QEH petition - to sign it visit www.change.org/p/build-a-new-hospital-for-king-s-lynn

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