More props added to hospital's 'failing building' amid pressure on staff

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

One of the beams supporting the ceiling at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital - Credit: QEH

Temporary props are continuing to be added to west Norfolk's Queen Elizabeth Hospital to stop its ceiling from collapsing, as hopes remain for a new building to replace it and staff experience "unprecedented" pressure.

In the House of Commons on Tuesday, North West Norfolk MP James Wild reiterated the case to chief secretary to the treasury Simon Clarke, saying: “I welcome that funding for the new hospitals programme and highlight to the minister that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn - with 200 props holding up its structurally deficient roof - has a compelling case to be one of those new schemes.

James Wild MP

North West Norfolk MP James Wild - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

“So given the inevitable need to rebuild the Queen Elizabeth, does my honourable friend agree that it’s far better to have a properly funded new hospital using modern methods of construction rather than it being an unplanned cost with emergency funding constantly being needed to prop up this failing building?”
 
Mr Clarke responded: “I thank my honourable friend for his question and welcome his clear and obvious passion for improving the lives of his constituents.

Simon Clarke

Chief secretary to the treasury Simon Clarke MP - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

“As well as committing £3.7 billion to make progress on the 40 hospitals named last year, the government has committed to funding a further eight new hospitals by 2030.
 
“The process for selecting those eight is being led by the department for health and social care, and will be based on a range of criteria including clinical need and deliverability.
 
“I would encourage my right honourable friend to engage in that process but obviously I’d be happy to have any further discussions if that would be useful.” 
 
The trust submitted two expressions of interest to the department of health and social care in early September, one for a single-phase new-build hospital and the other for a multi-phase development. 

At the end of September, the trust held a workshop at which it developed a shortlist of options for investment in the hospital, while a new communications group to engage with the public on the modernisation process has been established and held its first meeting. 

In October, the hospital installed two more temporary props with steel and wood supports - one in a corridor and one in a store room.

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

This brings the total number of props and temporary supports in place to 213 across 56 areas of the hospital, both clinical and non-clinical. 

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A survey of the roof is 79% complete and an inspection was carried out in the buildings’s main theatres on the weekend of October 9-10 - which the trust said had resulted in “no immediate significant concerns”. 

Vigilance over the building’s ongoing deterioration comes at a time of extreme pressure on the hospital’s resources however.  

A report published by the trust states: “We continue to experience very significant operational pressures, with emergency department attends remaining 20% higher than pre-COVID and the hospital’s bed occupancy levels remaining extremely high, mirroring the position across the Norfolk and Waveney system and wider NHS.”

As of October 25, the trust was caring for 32 Covid-19 patients and is planning to open a new Covid ward in response to increasing numbers. 

Professor Steve Barnett, chairman of the hospital's board of directors.

Professor Steve Barnett, chairman of the hospital's board of directors. - Credit: QEH

At a Tuesday meeting of the hospital trust’s board of directors, chairman Professor Steve Barnett called the current period “the most pressurised environment that any of us can ever remember, from our long time working in the NHS”, while medical director Dr Frankie Swords agreed that pressure was “unprecedented” and “extraordinary”.

Dr Frankie Swords, medical director at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Pic: Queen Eliza

Dr Frankie Swords, medical director at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. - Credit: QEH

Works on new facilities have meanwhile begun, using a £20.6 million emergency national capital investment given to the hospital by the government.

The project will see a new modular endoscopy unit built on the hospital’s estate along with the conversion of the Churchill ward into a new outpatient department and the creation of two decant wards. 

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

Sarah Jones, director of strategic estates projects, said groundworks on the endoscopy unit had started and were “progressing well”, while the latter work on the wards was on track to be delivered by the end of March 2022. 

More than 8,700 people have signed our Rebuild the QEH petition - you can do so at www.change.org/p/build-a-new-hospital-for-king-s-lynn

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