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'I'm as confident as I can be we will get rebuild', senior King's Lynn hospital boss tells committee



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Parts of Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital may eventually be forced to close if funding is not secured for a full rebuild of the site, its deputy chief executive has admitted.

But Laura Skaife-Knight also told councillors she was "as confident as I can be" that a long-term solution will be found to solve its ongoing structural crisis.

The comments came as senior officials outlined the work which saw the QEH formally lifted out of special measures last month.

King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (47772789)
King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital (47772789)

Ms Skaife-Knight told a meeting of the Norfolk Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Thursday that a £20.6 million Government funding package last year had enabled a rolling repair programme to begin.

The trust is currently seeking a further £90 million over the next three years, which she said would failsafe the entire first floor of the hospital.

But she continued: "Whilst that national capital investment is absolutely welcomed, it does not prolong or extend the life of the current hospital, which has an end point of 2030.

James Wild MP and QEH Deputy CEO Laura Skaife-Knight. (34083528)
James Wild MP and QEH Deputy CEO Laura Skaife-Knight. (34083528)

"The clock is ticking. We're aware of that and we're doing everything we can to make sure we position ourselves at the front of the queue for a new hospital."

But while services are recognised to have improved, the standard of the hospital's buildings has continued to deteriorate, with 1,528 props now holding up the roof across the estate.

The crisis stems from the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) planks used when the hospital was first built.

The committee was told that the issue affects around 80 per cent of the QEH's estate and it is one of five hospitals built with that material which are not currently part of the Government's hospital rebuilding scheme.

South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss, left, sees the problems in the QEH's Necton ward for herself (56268589)
South West Norfolk MP Liz Truss, left, sees the problems in the QEH's Necton ward for herself (56268589)

Ms Skaife-Knight said the trust was contributing to a Treasury study of the issue, adding: "The realisation now is that there probably isn't any other solution than a new hospital.

"I am, pending an announcement, as confident as I can be we will be on the list.

"Whether that's on the list of eight [added to the 40 announced in 2020] or there's another solution for RAACs, we need to work that through."

But, asked what the future looked like without funding, she said: "This isn't a wing of the hospital you can sort over here. This affects the entire body.

"The plan B, quite frankly, is that some parts of the hospital, we may have to consider closing."

The stark message comes amid anticipation of an announcement, potentially within days, about the QEH's bid to be part of the Government's hospital development programme.

Healthwatch Norfolk chief executive Alex Stewart told the committee: "We look forward to a clear and positive announcement, within the next few days."

And the committee's chairman, Alison Thomas, said: "I think we had hoped there would be an announcement before this meeting but let's hope it comes in short order."

Hospital officials also stressed the work to improve services would continue following the recent Care Quality Commission inspections which saw the QEH rated as good in many areas.

One of the main priorities is building a case to expand its emergency department to be submitted this summer.

Chief operating officer Denise Smith told the meeting the unit was "not fit for purpose."

She said the unit was now regularly dealing with up to 250 patients a day, while 180 to 190 would have been considered a "busy" day prior to the Covid pandemic.

She said: "It's simply not big enough and not a good layout to meet the demand that we currently face."



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