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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 moderniseBuilding our future. The best is yet to come logo our hospital and in turn further improve the experience of our patients, their families and staff. The following projects are possible thanks to a £20.6m of emergency capital funding the Trust has received:

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.

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.

New state-of-the-art Endoscopy Unit progressing

The building of our new £12.5m state-of-the-art Endoscopy Unit which will modernise our facilities for patients, their families and staff, is continuing at pace.

The new unit will enable all endoscopies to take place in one location. It will also create the theatre decant space needed to enable work to start to install failsafe across the entire first floor of the main hospital on a rolling basis to reduce the risk of plank failures in the hospital’s roof and to maximise safety for everyone. The unit remains on track to open this Summer.

Modernising our wards

The following ward refurbishments and upgrades are taking place:

  • West Dereham Ward is being refurbished and converted into a dementia-friendly care of the elderly ward. The ward will better meet the needs of our elderly patients and will bring the care of the elderly team together in one area of the hospital alongside West Newton Ward. The ward is due to open in Summer 2022.
  • Brancaster Ward is being refurbished and converted into a maternity ward and is due to open in Summer 2022.

State-of-the-art Diagnostic and Assessment Centre

Our state-of-the-art Diagnostic and Assessment Centre will soon go through local and national review processes. Subject to funding and planning approvals, the centre will allow more people to be seen more quickly and enable the rapid diagnosis of disease, including cancer.

The centre will be equipped with state-of-the art imaging equipment including MRI and CT scanners, X-Ray and Ultrasound machines. It is one of three centres across Norfolk and Waveney that, subject to the necessary approvals, will transform patient care by early 2024. We expect work to begin onsite at QEH this autumn and the facility would open in Spring 2024. Additional centres will be built at the James Paget University Hospital and Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital.

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.

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