King's Lynn hospital boss bemoans 'little investment' after site named in concrete safety fear
The boss of Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital has this afternoon criticised what she claims is a lack of investment over decades in modernising and upgrading its buildings.
The comments come after the hospital was named as one of seven across England which are potentially at risk of structural defects because of the materials used when it was built.
QEH officials say they are taking extra precautions to monitor the issue, which is connected to the roof of the Gayton Road site.
And they claim it has not changed its estimate for the life expectancy of the buildings as a whole.
But chief executive Caroline Shaw says that, while there is no immediate cause for alarm, there is a clear need for widespread modernisation of the site.
She said: “The Queen Elizabeth Hospital is 40 years old, during which time there has been little investment to allow the scale of modernisation and upgrades required.
“The hospital was given a predicted lifespan of 30 years, as per other Best Buy Hospitals constructed at the time.
“While it is clear that minor fixes and repairs are no longer sufficient, we will continue to use this hospital for as long as is possible even as we prioritise developing a case for national capital investment in the QEH, including for a new roof, and for medium-term funding for the redevelopment and modernisation of the whole site."
The current safety concern relates to the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) planks in the construction of the building.
The material was made the subject of a national safety alert by the Standing Committee on Structural Safety earlier this year, following an incident in which a school roof collapsed in late 2018, with little warning.
Mrs Shaw said: “The Trust has a regular programme of planned maintenance to ensure the safety of our patients and staff, and this programme has not identified any immediate causes for concern.
“Furthermore, in response to the safety alert from the Standing Committee on Structural Safety (SCOSS), the Trust has taken additional actions and precautions to ensure safety, including mapping every plank across the organisation and seeking advice from an external structural engineer to support our inspection work.
"Both have not changed the predicted life-expectancy of our building (2035).
“We continue to actively monitor the risk at board level and accelerate our case for upgrading or replacing our roof.”
Mrs Shaw's comments come just weeks after it was announced that the QEH was to be given a £9 million loan to help upgrade facilities.
Future funding of the NHS is also a key battleground in the current General Election campaign.
More by this authorAllister Webb