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Modernising The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

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Investing in our estate, facilities and digital infrastructure is key to achieving our vision to be the best rural District General Hospital for patient and staff experience. We have a number of really exciting projects underway which will significantly modernise our hospital and in turn further improve the experience of our patients, their families and staff.

Newly refurbished Same Day Emergency Care Unit opens to patients

Our newly extended Same Day Emergency Care Unit (SDEC) opened its doors to welcome patients on Monday 30 January 2023.

The refurbished department, which was a £2 million investment funded through the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System, allows for more patients needing urgent and emergency care to be treated on the same day. It will also reduce pressure on our Emergency Department and improve ambulance handover times.

The role of SDEC is to provide same day emergency care for patients who would otherwise be admitted to hospital. This modern clinical facility provides:

  • Refurbished clinical space with capacity to see and treat up to 50 patients daily
  • Direct referrals from GPs and ambulances, therefore reducing attendances in the Emergency Department
  • Dedicated reception area and entrance as well as a waiting area

This expansion is another step in our continued improvement journey to providing care for patients in the right setting as well as helping to reduce pressure on our Emergency Department and improve ambulance handover times. Expanding this unit means more patients can be assessed quickly, diagnosed and treated without being admitted to a ward, and if safe to do so, could go home the same day. In particular it, will mean we can receive more referrals directly from GPs and from ambulance crews which will reduce pressure on our Emergency Department and improve our patient experience. This, in turn, will help to alleviate pressures on staff as well as help patients who are well enough to return home as quickly as possible.

The unit is open daily: 8.30am to midnight Monday to Friday and 9am to 7pm at weekends. SDEC is located on the ground floor of the hospital near to the Emergency Department.

New state-of-the-art Endoscopy Unit opens

The new state-of the-art £12.5m Endoscopy Unit officially opened to patients on Wednesday 21 September 2022.

Using digital design and new innovations and technology to improve patient care and experience, the new facility is a ‘digital’ flagship for QEH and has set the precedent for what a new Queen Elizabeth Hospital could look like as we continue to do all we can to secure the funding to build a new hospital. Examples of how patient care and experience will be improved include:

  • Digital interactive information screens – bespoke Endoscopy information screens located in waiting rooms will allow patients to download information to their mobile phones providing access to handy information about their consultant, health condition, procedure, and a map of the unit.
  • Smart touch screens in nurse bay areas are providing improved communication and share patient and room information.
  • Smart room sensors capture information impacting patient experience, for example light and temperature levels, and are also providing information on how frequently a room is used to communicate its weekly, monthly and annual utilisation.
  • Live rooms – a signage and booking system allowing staff to immediately see the status of a room and quickly locate a suitable available room.

The unit modernises our facilities for patients, their families and staff and will enable all endoscopies (a procedure where organs inside your body are looked at using a long, usually flexible tube with a lens on one end and a video camera on the other) to take place in one unit.

It also creates the theatre decant space needed to install failsafe roof supports in the main theatres as we continue to maximise the safety of our current hospital.

This is another significant development for QEH in modernising our hospital and helping to achieve our ambition of being the best rural District General Hospital for patient and staff experience. It is also in keeping with our future site plans and new hospital schemes (meaning the unit is here to stay when we secure a new hospital).

New ambulance handover area for our Emergency Department

At our Board meeting on 1 August 2022, £1.76m of capital funding was approved to expand our Emergency Department (ED) including the creation of a new ambulance handover area.

This will help to reduce long ambulance waits, allowing ambulances to get back on the road more swiftly; and will enable patients to be seen and clinically assessed more quickly, improving patient safety and experience and reducing overcrowding in ED.

This is excellent news as our Emergency Department has outgrown its original footprint and is no longer fit for purpose to meet the needs of the increasing numbers of patients attending.

Expanding the Emergency Department will enable us to deliver the following benefits:

  • Space for ambulance handovers will increase from six to fifteen cubicles to allow paramedics and ambulance staff to more readily transfer the care of patients
  • Two additional rooms that meet the needs of patients presenting with mental health needs and who may require admission to a specialist mental health facility
  • Dedicated space providing privacy and dignity for patients who are experiencing early pregnancy issues
  • Improved space for walk-in patients to be triaged, seen and treated
  • Three side rooms with doors rather than curtains to accommodate patients who are presenting with potentially infectious conditions
  • An extra examination room in the Children’s Emergency Department
  • An improved working environment for QEH staff.

The expansion of our Emergency Department aligns with priorities in the Trust’s 2022/23 Corporate Strategy to improve urgent and emergency care and to modernise our hospital to support the delivery of optimal care.

Work is expected to begin in October 2022 and take approximately four months to complete and will be the first phase of a planned multi-phase approach to the Emergency Department expansion.

This important development is another significant step for QEH in modernising our hospital and helping to achieve our ambition to be the best rural District General Hospital for patient and staff experience.

New Maternity Ward opens

A brand new, purpose-designed, Maternity Ward opened at QEH on Monday 11 July 2022, following the complete refurbishment and redesign of the hospital's Brancaster Ward.

The work, which included removing and relocating all the internal walls, allowed for a redesign that meets the needs of parents-to-be and the hospital's maternity team. Importantly, it maximises safety as part of our ongoing work to install failsafes in areas of QEH made from RAAC (Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete).

The ward includes a brand new, purpose built, Maternity Triage Unit where pregnant people can be clinically assessed by a dedicated midwife and means those who need to be seen more urgently will be prioritised. In addition, a new, welcoming reception area, as well as an admission and discharge lounge, will speed up admission to the ward, as well as giving parents a dedicated waiting area if needed. The ward also includes three single-bedded en-suite side rooms for those with enhanced clinical needs.

New West Norfolk Eye Centre opens

A brand new, £3 million West Norfolk Eye Centre opens to patients at QEH on Monday 9 May. Located next to the Emerson Unit, the eye centre has its own entrance and signage, and can also be accessed through the main QEH building.

Having a dedicated Ophthalmology outpatient facility for the first time will enable the team to relocate from the main QEH Outpatient department. This not only provides a specialist space for patients with eye conditions, it also frees up valuable Outpatient space for other specialties in the main building.

The increased capacity that will be created, the effective design of the centre, and more efficient ways of working – such as developing ‘One Stop’ clinics – will mean that more patients will be able to receive care and treatment more quickly. The new bigger facility will also be able to respond to the increasing numbers of patients requiring ophthalmology services.

QEH provides around 34,000 outpatient eye appointments and undertakes 7,000 eye procedures each year for conditions such as glaucoma, cataracts, retina conditions, children’s eye conditions and eye emergencies. The new centre will enable us to offer an additional 2,000 appointments and undertake 2,000 more intravitreal (IVT) injection procedures each year (eye injections to treat a variety of retinal conditions).

The West Norfolk Eye Centre will also mean:

  • More clinic and diagnostic rooms – the new centre will have twice the space of the old outpatient area, with separate rooms for outpatient appointments and diagnostic tests, rather than having do both in the same room. This will hugely improve patient flow through the department and reduce waiting times
  • Separate waiting rooms and treatment areas for children and adults – responding to feedback from our patients, parents and the CQC
  • Two rooms dedicated for laser treatments – rather than one – enabling us to see and treat more patients in the same amount of time
  • A dedicated training space for our staff, as well as GPs and community optometrists.

The outpatient car park, located on the left when entering the site, is available for patients visiting the West Norfolk Eye Centre and Emerson Unit. There is also a pick-up and drop-off bay, as well as four parking spaces dedicated for Blue Badge holders.

The satellite ophthalmology services that QEH runs at North Cambridgeshire Hospital in Wisbech are unaffected.

Diagnostic Assessment Centres - Plans SubmittedImage: Queen Elizabeth Hospital Diagnostic Assessment Centre design

Planning applications for three new Diagnostic Assessment Centres (DACs) to be built adjacent to the three existing hospital sites, have been submitted to local councils.

The centres will provide capacity to support patients and healthcare staff in the rapid diagnosis of disease, with a view to reducing waiting lists, including those related to cancer diagnosis.

Each centre will be equipped with state-of-the-art imaging equipment, which includes MRI and CT scanners, X-Ray and Ultrasound machines.

Programme lead for the Norfolk and Waveney Integrated Care System (ICS), our Director of Strategy and Major Projects Simon Hackwell, said: “If fully approved, the centres would in time provide capacity to support patients and healthcare staff in the rapid diagnosis of disease, with a view to reducing waiting lists, including cancer diagnosis.”

New outpatient facility called The Emerson Unit open

Our new outpatient unit, named the Emerson Unit, opened in January 2022. It provides an enhanced environment and a better experience for patients, their families and staff and brings together outpatient services across antenatal care, obstetric ultrasound, and pregnancy day assessment unit, as well as our pain management service, gynaecology, rheumatology and urology teams.

We recognise that parking is currently limited near the new unit. We are aiming to offer more parking closer to the unit from late April. In the meantime, there is a drop-off point at the front of the unit and parking spaces next to the unit for those with a disability and blue badge.

Bidding for Elective Surgical Hub funding

We are bidding for national capital funding to support the development of an elective surgical hub on site to enable us to treat more patients more quickly, supporting elective recovery. Whilst initially focused on Orthopaedics, the hub will enable us to flexibly use our capacity to meet demand. If successful, we anticipate the hub being operational in early 2024.

Electronic Patient and Observations and Bed Management System Investment

The Trust Board has approved £4m capital investment in an electronic patient and observations and bed management system (POMS), also known as Electronic Observations (e-Obs). This will help to improve patient care by enabling clinicians to log their patient observations digitally allowing quicker clinical decisions to be taken, provide secure mobile clinical messaging to medical and nursing staff, improving patient safety and outcomes and support bed management enabling a more efficient use of resources.

The investment is in line with the local Integrated Care System Strategy and the Trust’s own digital plan. An Implementation Project Board will be established in April 2022 with Alice Webster, our Chief Nurse, the Senior Responsible Officer.

We have also invested almost £6m this year to further improve our digital maturity, with:

  • Electronic Prescribing – will allow our prescribers to send electronic prescriptions directly to the pharmacy from the point-of-care
  • Single Sign On – will allow our staff to securely log-in with a single ID and avoid wasting time logging on to multiple systems and freeing up more time for patient care
  • A new Radiology Information System – is now in place and allows our radiology staff to more effectively manage patient data including the huge medical image files generated in the course of diagnosing and treating patients, for example from x-rays
  • Work to implement a system-wide electronic patient record (EPR) is underway – procurement for a single EPR is expected to begin in the next few months. The system will transform how staff access patient records, making it quicker and easier for staff to get the information they need for each patient, allow a smoother patient journey and allow for further improvements to patient care.

Alongside these projects, we are due to open a new Maternity Bereavement Suite this year and will have two new MRI scanners to replace outdated equipment. By the end of 2022/early 2023.

Finally, we have a rolling programme of onsite surveys and maintenance in place and the £20.6m of emergency capital funding is also allowing us to maximise safety by installing failsafes (to reduce the risk of RAAC plank failures) which will improve the safety and delivery of some services in the hospital.

More projects to reduce waiting lists & treat more patients begin

In December 2021, we were delighted to be awarded £12.9m revenue funding – the largest award given to a Trust in the East of England – from the Government’s national fund to support health and care systems to work collaboratively to restore elective services against a backdrop of unprecedented demand due to Covid.

A number of projects funded from this award are being taken forward which will enable us to treat more patients requiring services such as tests and scans, outpatient appointments, and routine surgery such as hip replacements and eye cataract surgery.

Over the coming months, this will make a significant difference to our patients and help to bring our waiting lists down, with timely care for our elective (planned), cancer and urgent and emergency patients a top priority.

Implementing a new way of preparing patients for surgery

Along with James Paget University Hospital and the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital, we have received funding from NHSx to implement a digital system that will transform how patients are prepared for surgery.

Known as MyPreOP, this innovative technology will allow patients from the comfort of their own home to share their health information with clinicians remotely rather than coming into hospital for an appointment.

Pre-assessing patients digitally allows clinicians to prepare patients for surgery and support them to be in the best possible condition for their procedure. The new system will allow patients to prepare for surgery far sooner than traditionally has been possible and this preparation both physically and mentally reduces the risk of complications and helps to improve patients’ wellbeing. The technology will reduce the number of patients that need to come to hospital for pre-assessment, and for those that do need face-to-face appointments, the focus will be on optimising patients’ health in readiness for surgery rather than spending time on routine questions.

This new way of working across the three Trusts in Norfolk will enable patients (if they choose to) having gone through the pre-assessment process to be allocated to a theatre at any one Trust that has capacity, enabling theatres to be used more efficiently, and patients to be treated as soon as possible.

Ongoing maintenance programme

In addition to modernising our facilities, we continue with our rolling programme of on-site surveys and maintenance to maximise safety at our hospital. The hospital was built in 1980 with prefabricated sections and includes a Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) plank flat roof structure.

RAAC plank roofs were only designed to last 30 years and our building, which is now over 40 years old, is in a desperate state. We are installing failsafes (to reduce the risk of RAAC plank failures) which will improve the safety and delivery of some services.

You may see these works being carried out and you may notice steel support props in place around the site if you are visiting us – these are in place to maximise the safety of the building.

As a RAAC (reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete) hospital, QEH will continue to need significant annual investment until a long-term sustainable solution for the hospital can be confirmed.

We are working hard to bring a new hospital to King’s Lynn and West Norfolk. To find out more about this work, click here.

QEH is on life support. There's no credible plan B if we don't get the funding for a new hospital soon.

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