Minister avoids questions over rebuilding crumbling Norfolk hospital

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

Sixty more props have been installed to support the roof of a crumbling hospital, as Health Secretary Matt Hancock sidesteps questions over when the government will replace it.

Some 194 props are now in place at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Concrete planks used to build it are more than 10 years over their working life and beginning to fail.

Patients have had to be moved from some wards while remedial work is carried out including the critical care unit. Staff fear it is "Grenfell waiting to happen".

The government has given the QEH £20m for urgent repair work. But the roof is expected to cost £550m to maintain over the next decade, while a new-build would cost £670m.


League of Friends shop at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn reopens - Credit: QEH

The hospital's risk register warns: "There is a direct risk to life and safety of patients, visitors and staff due to the potential of catastrophic failure of the roof structure due to structural deficiencies."

But it was not included in the list of 40 hospitals given the go-ahead to begin work on rebuilds announced by Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year. It is now one of 16 from which eight will be chosen to be rebuilt between 2025 and 2030.

Mr Hancock has so far not answered our questions over the future of the 500-bed QEH. It has not been made public why a hospital in such dire need was not approved for a rebuild. Requests for an interview with Mr Hancock have been passed by his office to the Department for Health and Social Care, which has responded each time with the same statement.

“We are committed to improving health infrastructure across the country and are backing the NHS with £4.2bn for hospitals to maintain and refurbish their buildings this year," it said. "As part of this the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn will receive over £20m to address the most immediate issues. Alongside this we have confirmed funding for 40 hospitals across the country, with a further eight schemes invited to bid for future funding to deliver 48 hospitals by 2030.”

Health secretary Matt Hancock.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock. - Credit: PA

Norfolk's new care partnership, which is taking over the running of health services in the county, said the rebuilding the hospital was one of its priorities. In a statement, it said: "We share the aspirations and plans of the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn NHS Foundation Trust for a new build. We are aware of the issues regarding the hospital building and work is taking place to look at our full health and care estate to make sure it is fit for the future."

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Contractors are on-site carrying out daily checks of the QEH's roof.

A spokesman for the hospital said: "We have a team permanently on site to systematically check and manage our buildings and to act on any work that might be needed, and we are treating patients safely, as normal. This is part of a rolling programme of essential maintenance work. From time to time we temporarily move a small number of patients to other appropriate areas of the hospital.

A prop holding up the roof at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

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

"One of the trust’s priorities is modernising our hospital (including our estate) to support the delivery of optimal care. The trust very much welcomes the £20.6m of national capital it has been awarded in recent weeks to fund the short-term fixes and improvements needed as surveys identify failings with the roof planks and rapid deterioration of our hospital’s estate. It will improve safety in the years to come. In the meantime, the trust has developed a range of options and submitted a strong case for bringing a new hospital to QEH."

More than 5,000 people have signed an online petition launched by the EDP calling for a rebuild. To add your voice, click here.