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King's Lynn hospital maintenance costs 'almost equal' to rebuild, bosses tell MPs

Hundreds of millions of pounds will be needed either to rebuild Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital, or to maintain the present structures over the next decade, its bosses have warned.

The stark message has been delivered to MPs in a letter seen by the Lynn News.

The move comes after the QEH missed out on a place in the Government’s list of 40 new hospital development schemes announced last week.

QEH General Views of the outside of the hospital. (41429704)
QEH General Views of the outside of the hospital. (41429704)

Although the trust has submitted a bid for funding in a second phase of that programme, its ultimate aim is to secure the cash necessary for a complete rebuild.

And while both West Norfolk MPs - Liz Truss and James Wild - have both pledged to back the trust’s bid for additional investment , officials say the hospital’s role in treating patients from both southern Lincolnshire and northern Cambridgeshire also needs to be taken into proper account.

The letter, signed by trust chairman, Professor Steve Barnett, says the estimated cost of rebuilding the hospital is around £679 million.

King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Trust chairman Professor Steve Barnett.(10442609)
King's Lynn's Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Trust chairman Professor Steve Barnett.(10442609)

But it also argues that “living with the risks” associated with the present build would cost £554 million over the next decade alone.

It goes on: “Our ambition for the QEH, as recently published in our long-term strategy, is that the Trust will become the best rural District General Hospital in the NHS for patient and staff experience by 2025.

“This ambition simply cannot be delivered without significant capital investment so that we can develop a new hospital that is fit for purpose for the future and is nothing more than our patients, their families – and your constituents – deserve.”

One of the key ongoing maintenance issues the trust faces is with the hospital’s roof.

Last year , the QEH was named as one of seven hospitals in England at risk of serious structural defects because of the materials used when it was built.

The alert related to the use of reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) planks and followed an incident when a school roof collapsed in 2018 with little warning.

Prof Barnett’s letter points out that the two other hospitals in East Anglia with similar issues - the James Paget Hospital in Gorleston and the West Suffolk Hospital in Bury St Edmunds - were both included on the Government’s development list despite having “considerably more investment” than the QEH in recent years.

He added: “Our hospital is now 40-years-old and in desperate need of modernisation so that we can ensure it is fit for purpose for the patients and communities we serve.

“The current structural issues presented by the roof construction present an inherent risk.

“The Trust has a critical backlog maintenance requirement and as requested we have demonstrated categorically with the recent work that we have completed, that the cost of refurbishing or completely replacing our roof, and the need for a new Emergency Department which will meet today’s demand on our services, is almost equal in financial terms to that of a new hospital build.”

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