New health minister sees for himself state of King's Lynn hospital

Secretary of State for Health Steve Barclay visits the QEH at King's Lynn.

Secretary of State for Health Steve Barclay visits the QEH at King's Lynn. - Credit: QEH/Steve Barclay

Health Secretary, MP Steve Barclay signalled his support for re-building the Queen Elizabeth Hospital at King’s Lynn.  

Whether he stays or goes after the Conservative leadership battle is done and dusted, the NE Cambs MP has seen for himself conditions at the ageing hospital.  

On Friday, with a plaque hastily made to recognise his official duty to open a £3m eye centre, he was in the hospital. 

New Health Minister Steve Barclay on a visit to the QEH at King's Lynn

New Health Minister Steve Barclay on a visit to the QEH at King's Lynn - Credit: STEVE BARCLAY


New Health Minister Steve Barclay on a visit to the QEH at King's Lynn

New Health Minister Steve Barclay on a visit to the QEH at King's Lynn - Credit: STEVE BARCLAY


New Health Minister Steve Barclay on a visit to the QEH at King's Lynn

New Health Minister Steve Barclay on a visit to the QEH at King's Lynn - Credit: STEVE BARCLAY

Mr Barclay said he had explained to him the “next phase of building work. The new eye centre means quicker treatment for patients and more job opportunities for the team”.  

He added: “We're working hand-in-hand with NHS England to reduce delays in handing patients over to hospitals and get ambulances back on the road.” 

Mr Barclay said his visit was an opportunity to discuss these issues with staff and patients at the QEH “as well as their wider hospital estate and digitisation plans”. 

The new eye centre provides a specialist ophthalmology outpatient facility at QEH for the first-time. 

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QEH provides around 34,000 outpatient eye appointments and undertakes 7,000 eye procedures each year. 

Mr Barclay, whose son was born at the QEH, also visited the new maternity ward. 

QEH officials, however, were keen to brief him on the need for urgent improvements to the rest of the hospital.  

Mr Barclay was reminded that the QEH is more than 40-years-old. Experts have warned it will reach end of life by 2030 and as such there is a ‘ticking clock’. 

The QEH is a Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) hospital, with almost 80 per cent of hospital buildings (roof and walls) affected by failing RAAC planks. 

A hospital spokesperson said Mr Barclay met the estates team “who are working around the clock 24/7 to ensure the safety of the hospital”. 

And staff were engaged in a “rolling programme installing failsafes across the first floor of the hospital over the next three years (six wards a year including operating theatres).  

“This is a short-term measure while QEH is seeking £862million in urgent investment to build a new hospital which is the only long-term solution.  

“This investment will not extend the life of the current hospital, though importantly, it will maximise safety for patients, their families and staff.” 

RAAC failsafes stretch the length of this QEH corridor

RAAC failsafes stretch the length of this QEH corridor - Credit: QEH

Mr Barclay met staff and patients on the Necton ward, one of the clinical areas where props are holding up the RAAC-affected ceiling.  

“He heard about the challenges of delivering care in such an environment,” said the spokesperson.  

“Nursing leaders and patients told him about their hopes for a new hospital where props and ceiling leaks are a thing of the past.” 

He also met some of our portering team, who the spokesperson described as “the eyes and ears of the hospital and an integral part of Team QEH”. 

Mr Barclay said: “The hospital means a huge amount to me and to us as a family and that’s why I know just how much it matters to the community as well. 

“Today is a good time to take stock as we were discussing the progress that has been made in King’s Lynn.”

 

Laura Skaife-Knight, deputy chief executive at QEH, said investment in an eye centre was a “much-needed” project. 

“That said, we must not lose sight of the fact that this investment is not extending the life of the hospital beyond the 2030 deadline,” she said. 

“Ultimately a new hospital is the only sustainable long-term solution for QEH.” 

New Health Minister Steve Barclay on a visit to the QEH at King's Lynn

New Health Minister Steve Barclay on a visit to the QEH at King's Lynn - Credit: STEVE BARCLAY

Lorraine Gore, chief executive of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk, said: “The current situation cannot continue, with staff and patients feeling unsafe due to the number of props and supports within the hospital.  

“They are not a sight you wish to see when you are ill in bed or working every day.” 

Cllr Jo Rust, who is lead for the Save the King’s Lynn QEH Group, said: “While we might not have got to speak to him personally, I’m confident the message that we must have a new hospital, was given loudly and clearly. 

“I hope that we face no more delays and the shortlist is announced, as promised, before Parliament closes for summer recess.”