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The Ward Round column for April, from Caroline Shaw, CEO of Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn

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I’m delighted to start this column with the welcome news that our Regulator has formally confirmed the Trust’s exit from the Recovery Support System (formerly known as ‘Special Measures’) following our recent CQC inspection.

Their formal confirmation that the trust has made significant progress to allow us to exit the Recovery Support System is the next important step in our improvement journey.

That said, we are in no way complacent and know there is still much to do as we enter the next phase of our improvement journey, whilst ensuring we continue to sustain and embed the many positive changes we have made over the last three years.

Caroline Shaw, CBE, CEO of the QEH (56324413)
Caroline Shaw, CBE, CEO of the QEH (56324413)

I continue this month’s update with the exciting news that our brand new £3 million West Norfolk eye centre, is very nearly finished and will be treating patients from early May.

This new, bigger facility is much-needed and will be able to treat the rising numbers of people requiring ophthalmology services, ensuring more patients receive care and treatment more quickly.

We will be able to offer an additional 2,000 appointments and undertake 2,000 more intra-vitreal (IVT) injection procedures (a procedure to place medication directly in the back of the eye) each year.

South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss, left, sees the problems in the QEH's Necton ward for herself (56324543)
South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss, left, sees the problems in the QEH's Necton ward for herself (56324543)

Our state-of-the-art endoscopy unit remains on track to open by early July which will modernise our facilities for patients, their families and staff and will enable all endoscopies (a procedure where organs inside your body are looked at using a long, usually flexible tube with a lens on one end and a video camera on the other) to take place in our unit. And work continues to refurbish our West Dereham ward and convert it into a dementia-friendly care of the elderly ward.

This will bring the care of the elderly team together in one area of the hospital alongside our West Newton ward, with the ward opening at the end of May.

Brancaster ward is being refurbished and converted into a maternity ward, and will open this summer.

These projects have created the space we need to start to install failsafes across the first floor of the hospital to reduce the risk of plank failures in the hospital’s roof and to maximise safety for everyone.

We believe we are the most propped hospital in the country with 1,528 steel and timber support props in 56 areas of the hospital – almost three times more props than beds.

This number has significantly increased in recent weeks following work to install support props on Brancaster ward, our Butterfly suite (new maternity bereavement suite due to open in May) and our neonatal intensive care unit.

It will continue to increase over the coming months as we carefully monitor our buildings, carry out emergency repairs and begin a rolling programme which will see failsafes being installed in six wards a year over the next three years, including our theatres.

As I’ve said many times before, whilst installing failsafes minimises the risk of plank failures, it does not extend the life of the current hospital.

It’s well-known that our buildings have reached the end of their life and need replacing. We desperately need a new hospital to continue to provide the very best care for our patients and local communities and to secure a sustainable long-term solution for the QEH – it’s what our patients, their families, our staff and local communities deserve.

We continue to do all we can to secure the funding we so badly need to bring a new hospital to West Norfolk and expect to find out soon if we have made the longlist for the Government’s eight further new hospital schemes.

We remain very confident we have an extremely strong and compelling case which we are continuing to press on all fronts. A decision on the final eight hospitals is expected later in the year.

We know there are some concerns that the work we are doing to modernise our existing hospital may mean we reduce our chances of securing a new hospital for QEH.

We want to reassure you that there is absolutely no evidence or suggestion this is the case. The reality is that whilst we are doing all we can to secure the funding for a new hospital, we must continue to invest and modernise our hospital for our patients now, rather than turn down much-needed capital for QEH. This will benefit our patients, their families and staff who deserve to be cared for and work in better facilities and environment than we have now.

All investments we make now fit with our ‘masterplan’ (future vision) for our hospital, so will not be money wasted.

We are enormously grateful for the unwavering support from our local community for a new hospital.

Last month James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk led an excellent debate in Parliament about our case and last week councillor Jo Rust and the Save our QEH Hospital campaign group led a protest with campaigners from outside Westminster, which was supported by our local MPs.

Finally, I wholeheartedly agree with Duncan Baker, MP for North Norfolk, about his suggestion that a new QEH would be a fitting tribute to the Queen (recognising it is named after her mother) in her Platinum Jubilee year.

We can only hope that this means it’s meant to be and this is QEH’s time to get the funding we deserve to bring a new hospital to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.

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