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King's Lynn hospital fighting back from 'worst' report, says chairman

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The report which put Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital back into special measures was among the worst ever compiled by inspectors, the trust’s chairman says.

But Professor Steve Barnett has also told a West Norfolk Council committee that progress was being made to address failings highlighted by the Care Quality Commission (CQC).

And he revealed the hospital is in line for a multi-million package to help tackle its financial deficit, if it can make sufficient savings in the coming months.

Prof Barnett took over as chairman of the trust last November, just weeks after the hospital had been declared inadequate by the CQC and put into special measures for a second time.

Formal warning notices were also issued over concerns relating to the quality of maternity services.

And Prof Barnett told a meeting of the borough council’s Lynn area consultative committee on Thursday that the scale of the challenge facing the hospital was set out by what he described as the “damning” findings of the inspectors.

He said: “It was one of the worst inspection reports they (the CQC) have ever produced.” The CQC has not commented.

Prof Barnett said the hospital was now awaiting the result of its latest CQC inspection in the next few weeks.

He admitted he did not expect the trust’s current special measures to be lifted at this stage.

But he said improvements in accident and emergency, which have seen the hospital move rapidly up national rankings for service standards, as well as the appointment of several new directors showed things were changing positively.

He added: “It’s my motivation that the QE gives outstanding care.”

The meeting was also given more encouraging news on the financial front after the hospital ended the last financial year around £37 million in the red.

Prof Barnett said the deficit, as a percentage of total turnover, was the highest in the NHS.

But he revealed the trust would receive £29 million of additional funding if it can make £5.5 million of “cost improvements” by the end of the current financial year next March.

And he rejected suggestions an increased focus on costs might lead to jobs or services leaving Lynn.

Jo Rust told the meeting: “I have seen it happen in other trusts and I want to ensure we protect and defend the services and jobs we have in King’s Lynn.”

Prof Barnett replied: “There are no plans to do any of those things. If that is the direction of travel, I will do my utmost to make sure the QE suffers no detriment.”

He said he also hoped to forge closer links with local political, community and business leaders which he suggested had been “neglected” by the hospital’s previous leadership.

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