Natalie Gray reports on the ever-growing number of props holding up a crumbling hospital serving the prime minister's constituents
The health secretary has pledged to make a visit within weeks to a crumbling hospital being held up by nearly 2,500 props - but stopped short of promising it would be rebuilt.
Therese Coffey was questioned by ITV News after Prime Minister Liz Truss - MP for the constituency which neighbours the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Norfolk - said the new health secretary would hold final responsibility over the decision on its future.
She will become the third health secretary in less than 18 months to visit the ageing site, which is bidding to become one of the eight new hospitals expected to be announced by government by the end of the year.
The King's Lynn hospital's acting chief executive Alice Webster said the 2,482 struts holding the roof up were "a constant worry and a constant source of aggravation" to staff and patients.
Staff are having to work around builders and areas are shut off, as the hospital's estates team work "hour-by-hour" monitoring the walls and ceilings and managing the repair work. A ward and four of the hospital's seven operating theatres are closed due to concerns about a corridor ceiling, meaning disruption for patients waiting for surgery.
Speaking to ITV News Anglia at the Conservative Party conference, Ms Coffey confirmed she would visit the hospital by the end of October.
ITV News Anglia's political correspondent Emma Hutchinson spoke to the Health Secretary Thérèse Coffey
"We need to recognise some of the acceleration of the problems that are happening [at the QEH], the structural problems and I have got ministers working on this right now," she said.
"I'm here, I'm taking decisive action, we're doing the detailed work and I will get to Norfolk before the end of this month to try and work out how exactly we're going to make this happen."
When the hospital was built in 1980 its flat roof structure was only designed to last for 30 years - 42 years on, it is now failing.
Hospital boss Ms Webster described it as "an absolute challenge" for her team.
"We're working around builders. We have to shut areas... it's a daily and a constant challenge for all of our teams," she added.
"We continue to hope that the government can see that we actually do need a new building to be able to deliver the services."
Ms Webster has invited Ms Coffey to the hospital to see how the crumbling hospital is disrupting staff and patients.
"We'll be showing her exactly the challenges that everyone has to work through on a daily basis," she said.
"We really need her to understand the lived experience, what it's like to be a patient in this environment, what it's like to be a member of staff trying to deliver services," she added.
Jo Rust, an independent councillor in King's Lynn and former Labour prospective parliamentary candidate, is now part of the campaign group Save the QEH, which protests outside the hospital every week.
"We go outside the hospital and stand on the main road to highlight the need, the continued need for a new hospital," she said.
"Because there are people who think it's a done deal. It's not a done deal until that announcement is made," Ms Rust added.
"While it's ok for Liz Truss to say she has been tireless in her work to put the Queen Elizabeth at the forefront and make sure it gets a new hospital, that isn't something we've seen evidence of."
Prime Minister Ms Truss - who is also the MP for neighbouring South West Norfolk - said she would be asking her health secretary to look at the matter but did not commit outright to building a new hospital.
"It certainly isn't acceptable and I've been to look at the props myself and it is not acceptable," said Ms Truss.
The decision over which hospitals are rebuilt will be made by Ms Coffey, but that is not expected until the end of the year.
Meanwhile, repair work due to last eight months has begun to make operating theatres safer.
Health bosses say they have plans in place to minimise disruption as much as possible, including doing planned operations at different times of the day or off the QEH site.
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