King's Lynn hospital is 'matter of concern', top Government official says
A senior civil servant has admitted that the condition of Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital is "a matter of concern."
The comment by Sir Chris Wormald, the top official in the Department of Health, comes amid growing pressure on ministers and health service chiefs for urgent action to fix its crumbling buildings.
And the North West Norfolk MP, James Wild, yesterday described a recent £20 million funding package for the QEH as a "short term" fix.
Speaking during a session of the House of Commons' Public Accounts Committee, of which he is a member, Mr Wild asked when the process and criteria for the second phase of the Government's planning hospital building programme was expected to be published.
The QEH missed on an initial list of 40 hospitals included in the programme last autumn, though it is hoped it could still feature on a secondary list of eight sites for investment.
Mr Wild told the committee: "The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn currently has 131 props holding up the roof in wards across the hospital.
"Last month the Critical Care Unit had to be closed for two weeks due to concerns at concrete planks in the roof.
"The hospital was built to last for 30 years and is now 41 years old."
Sir Chris, the Department of Health's Permanent Secretary, said he did not have the details with him and would write to Mr Wild afterwards.
But he added: "We know the general position on the issue you raise and it is a matter of concern, both to the department and the NHS."
Mr Wild responded: "The hospital did receive £20 million recently for short-term funding, but that is literally just fixing the roof for a short term.
"We need a new hospital in King's Lynn."
Sir Chris said: "I'm sure you're aware of the Government's commitments in this space and the committee has investigated before the capital position of the NHS as a whole.
"I think we're all well aware of the investments that are going in but also the challenges that individual hospitals can face."
The exchange follows two known instances in recent months when parts of the hospital have been temporarily closed to enable urgent repairs to take place.
Last December, the Back The Bid, Build Our Future programme, supported by the Lynn News, was launched with the aim of securing a new hospital for the town.
And, earlier this month, members of the Lynn and District Trades Council staged a protest outside the Gayton Road site to highlight its problems.
They say urgent funding is needed now to make the current buildings safe, as well as a commitment to a new hospital in the future.