Hancock admits QEH 'in serious need of improvement' but makes no promises

Hancock at QEH

Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to pledge the money needed to replace ageing Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn. But he did admit its very run down. - Credit: Andrew Sinclair (via Twitter)

Its roof supported by 200 poles, Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted on a visit to the Queen Elizabeth hospital in Kings Lynn that it is “in serious need of improvement”. 

He added: “I’m assured its safe but this can only be a short-term solution.”  

Hancock at QEH

Health Secretary Matt Hancock refused to pledge the money needed to replace ageing Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King's Lynn. He saw the serious issues for himself on a visit. - Credit: QEH

But despite governors reporting that the condition of the 40-year-old hospital poses a "direct risk to the life and safety of patients," Mr Hancock was unable to say when improvements would come.  

He promised only that the QEH might get on a list of replacements. 

“It has been truly inspiring to meet hard-working staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital and hear their case to become one of the 48 new hospitals we’re building,” he said. 

Mr Hancock’s visit was ostensibly to officially the Sandringham unit at the private hospital within the grounds and acquired by the QEH last year. 

Inside the QEH

Photo released by campaigners fighting for a new hospital for King's Lynn. It shows inside the QEH. Pipes and wood are holding the ceiling up all over the hospital-" if they break while someone is close it would be a threat to life" says campaigners. - Credit: 'Save Lynn@

It has enabled the NHS to increase the number of inpatient beds by 30 and gain an additional two theatres. 

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He was joined by James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk, and met with chief executive Caroline Shaw. 

A hospital spokesperson said the minister “was briefed on the proactive work the trust is carrying out to improve the safety of its ageing estate.” 

A recent allocation of £20.6 million in emergency capital funds would allow the QEH to progress some improvements. 

But the spokesperson admitted that the long-term aim was to bring a new hospital to the town.  

Hancock at QEH

Matt Hancock unveils a plaque as he officially opens the former privately run Sandringham Hospital within the QEH grounds. QEH bought it last year. - Credit: QEH

The pre-cast concrete construction methods used to build it 40 years ago was only intended to have a life span of 25 years.  

The QEH says it submitted “a compelling case for a new hospital”. 

Mr Wild said he had arranged the visit by the minister for him to see “the challenges that patients and staff face from the structural issues affecting the hospital”.  

NE Cambs MP Steve Barclay believes a new hospital is now due for King’s Lynn.  

“Many constituents will have paid a visit to the hospital at one time or another and recent visitors will have seen that the roof is currently supported by almost 200 metal poles,” he said. 

“The hospital is 40 years old and there comes a time when repeated short term fixes become more costly and less patient friendly than starting afresh”.