'It is collapsing' - Hospital staff fear 'Grenfell waiting to happen'
- Credit: QEH
NHS staff fear no-one is listening, as the hospital they work in crumbles around their ears.
More than 130 props now hold up the roof at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.
Yet while the building is more than 10 years past its intended working life and no longer fit for purpose, the QEH has been left out of the government's hospital improvement programme and must wait until November to find out whether it might be earmarked funds for a rebuild between 2025 and 2030.
The EDP has launched a petition calling for a rethink, as a risk assessment warns of imminent collapse of the hospital roof.
One senior clinician who spoke on condition of anonymity said: "The growing concern amongst staff stretches from the highest level in management all the way through the different areas.
"We are literally seeing the building collapse around us on a daily basis now. The trust has employed people to work full time who’s sole purpose is to every day walk round and check every inch to see where the next bit will collapse and raise the alarm to prevent harm.
"We’ve had several incidents declared internally over the last six months, the latest being in ITU [Intensive Treatment Unit].
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"Should this be any other public building it would be condemned and no one would even be allowed on site without hard hats and a purpose to be there.
"Yet here we have beams propped up literally above patients beds supporting the roof above their heads."
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The source added: "Staff are exhausted from raising concerns about the situation. There is a real feeling of Grenfell waiting to happen with no one listening.
"The situation has been taken to parliament, the local MP is fully aware, the trust has tried and somehow failed to gain the grant for a new hospital.
"Everyone is incredulous at how any other hospital could possibly warrant or justify the funding for a new hospital over this current situation.
"The only thing being done is literally patching up holes and having someone walk around daily in the hope to sound the alarm when the time comes a larger collapse occurs.
"The sad truth is this isn’t an 'if', it’s a 'when'. The major worry everyone has is that, just like Grenfell, everyone knew the risk was there, but when it happens it won’t matter to the lives lost.
"Staff can’t refuse to work their on the grounds of their safety, or they’d lose their jobs.
"Yet if staff died in a collapse there’d be no compensation to families as we have been made aware of the risks and chose to work regardless.
"It seems to all, exploitation of the NHS staff goodwill, the government know the staff would never walk out and refuse to work, and yet nothing is being done."
The source said senior managers were doing all they can to lobby for a new-build.
But they added: "How can a government in a civilised western country allow children and patients to lie in a bed with a balance beam literally over their heads?
"Staff joke about always being aware of where the exits are, as we are very much conscious on a daily basis that the hospital is collapsing around us.
"Norfolk and in particular King's Lynn is always overlooked for funding, but this is a disgrace that a hospital can be pushed to such a risky state to be openly registered as ‘when’ the roof collapses there will be ‘catastrophic loss of life’ and yet be rejected for funding of a new hospital."
Health Secretary Matt Hancock's office declined to discuss the QEH.
They passed us to the Department for Health and Social Care, which responded with an earlier statement saying: "We fully recognise the need to invest in improving health infrastructure across the country, including where trusts have identified significant issues.
“At the Spending Review 2020, we backed the NHS with £4.2bn in 2021 for operational capital investment to allow hospitals to maintain and refurbish their premises.
“Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn will receive over £20 million to directly address the most immediate issues. We will shortly announce criteria and process for a further eight schemes to be included in the New Hospitals Programme."
You can sign our petition to show the strength of feeling for a new hospital at https://tinyurl.com/2c99abm3.