The Secretary of State was joined by James Wild, MP for North West Norfolk, and met with senior leaders, including Chief Executive, Caroline Shaw CBE to receive an update on the progress QEH has made as it continues on its journey of improvement.
The Secretary of State met and spoke with staff across the Trust, thanking them for their hard work, determination and resilience during COVID-19 and applauded their efforts in delivering over 58,000 doses of COVID-19 vaccine since the vaccine roll-out began in December 2020.
During the visit, the Secretary of State unveiled a plaque at the Trust’s new surgical facility, the Sandringham Unit. QEH acquired the 26-bed former BMI hospital in Autumn 2020, leading to an improved elective surgery experience for patients and their families. The Unit was instrumental during the Trust’s fight against the second wave of COVID-19 by providing a dedicated facility for urgent surgery to continue and is critical to the Trust’s elective recovery programme and addressing the waiting times that have built up during the pandemic.
On his visit, the Secretary of State was briefed on the proactive work the Trust is carrying out to improve the safety of its ageing estate, following the welcome allocation of £20.6 million in emergency capital funds. This will allow the hospital to create decant facilities for wards and theatres to allow installation of failsafes in year one of a three-year programme.
As a RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) hospital, the Trust has an ongoing programme of estate and maintenance works to ensure the safety of its patients and staff.
The Trust’s longer-term ambition is to bring a new hospital to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk so that patients, the local community and staff have the local hospital they deserve and one that is fit for the future. The QEH submitted a case for a new hospital building last Autumn and has commenced the development of a Strategic Outline Case, building on last year’s submission, which will be completed by the end of 2021.
Professor Steve Barnett, Chairman at QEH commented: “We are grateful to the Secretary of State for making the time to visit QEH to officially open our Sandringham Unit and to meet and thank staff for their hard work and dedication as the NHS has responded to the pandemic. It was enormously helpful to be able to listen to and share views with the Secretary of State on a range of topics, including the Trust’s continued journey of improvement, the Trust’s focus on elective recovery and restoration, and how we are proactively addressing our estate challenges whilst having a longer-term ambition to bring a new hospital to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk.”
Caroline Shaw CBE, Chief Executive at QEH, said: “I’m really pleased that we were able to welcome the Secretary of State for a visit to QEH today to share our many improvements to patient and staff experience we have made over the last two years. Investing in our estate and digital infrastructure is central to our continuous improvement journey and this includes our ambition to bring a new hospital to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk, which is no more than our patients, local community and staff deserve.
“I am hugely proud of how Team QEH has responded to the pandemic and our relentless focus on delivering safe and compassionate care, and I am delighted that the Secretary of State recognised the hard work, dedication and efforts of our staff during his visit today.”
James Wild MP commented: “It was a pleasure to welcome the Health Secretary to QEH to recognise the incredible effort of staff during COVID and in the successful role out of the vaccine programme. Since being elected, I have campaigned for increased investment in the QEH so I am pleased that the Health Secretary accepted my invitation to see the challenges that patients and staff face from the structural issues affecting the hospital. I will continue to champion the case for QEH to be one of the government’s new hospital schemes as this is crucial to continued improvement in patient care and health outcomes for people in West Norfolk and beyond.”
Liz Truss MP commented: “It is extremely positive that the Health Secretary visited the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. We have fantastic staff working at the QEH, serving a wide geographical area of patients, and I am pleased that the Secretary of State has had the opportunity to discuss with the leadership team the urgent need for a new build hospital. This is an issue I have been raising directly with him so the visit is most welcome.”
Cllr Stuart Dark MBE, Leader of the Borough Council of King’s Lynn & West Norfolk: “I was pleased to be here to welcome the Secretary of State for Health to our hospital. It’s great that he can see first-hand the challenges that staff have to work with here. I welcome Matt Hancock’s visit and the chance to raise with him the level of concerns of Norfolk residents, both in the borough and county.”