Hinchingbrooke Hospital and King's Lynn's QEH to be replaced by 2030, health secretary confirms

  • ITV News Anglia's Natalie Gray reports on what the news means for the region

A crumbling hospital that is being held up by more than 4,000 props is to be replaced as part of the government's new hospital programme, the health secretary has confirmed.

The announcement by the government comes after years of campaigning by patients and politicians for an upgrade to the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn, Norfolk.

Hinchingbrooke Hospital in Huntingdon and three others elsewhere in the country will also be replaced by 2030, Steve Barclay told the House of Commons on Thursday, with all five "fully funded".

The five replacement hospitals are being prioritised over others which had previously been named in the government's new hospital's programme in 2019, because of recently concerns over their safety.

The QEH was built in 1980 and was only designed to last 30 years. Four decades on, it is failing with a roof that has had to be held held up by metal and wooden props since 2020.

Staff are currently 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.

Some 56 areas of the hospital house 4,394 props, while one ward and two operating theatres are out of action.

The government revealed details for the New Hospitals Programme, with 40 new hospitals to be built across the country by the end of the decade.

The James Paget University Hospital and the West Suffolk Hospital were already on that list, which was announced in 2020.

They were both made with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete (RAAC) - a building material used between the 1950s and 1980s that was designed with a short life, and which now needs to be replaced on safety grounds.

Five other hospitals made with RAAC have now been added to the government's building programme, including Hinchingbrooke and the QEH. The others are Airedale General in Keighley, Leighton in Cheshire and Frimley in Surrey.

Elsewhere in the Anglia region, funding was also confirmed for a previously-announced replacement for the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Harlow.

Mr Barclay said the existing schemes for hospital building “will all proceed, but the commitment to completion by 2030 applies to the 40 schemes set out today”.

He added that this “meets our manifesto commitment to build 40 hospitals by 2030”.

Staff at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn celebrate news their hospital will be replaced. Credit: ITV News Anglia

Jo Rust, from the Save our QEH campaign, welcomed the announcement.

"It's an absolutely huge relief. We didn't actually have the confidence and the belief that this would ever happen, bearing in mind that we have been campaigning for well over two years," she said.

Mr Barclay said: "These five hospitals are in pressing need of repair and are being prioritised so patients and staff can benefit from major new hospital buildings, equipped with the latest technology.

“On top of this I’m strengthening our New Hospital Programme by today confirming that it is expected to represent more than £20bn of new investment in hospital infrastructure.

“As we approach the 75th anniversary of our fantastic NHS, this extra investment will ensure it can care for patients for decades to come and help cut waiting lists so they get the treatment they need quicker.”

The news of the new hospitals was also greeted warmly by local MPs, many of whom had long been campaigning for upgrades.

James Wild, the Conservative MP for North West Norfolk, said the QEH's replacement was a "momentous day", while his South-West Norfolk counterpart Liz Truss called it a "huge relief".

Huntingdon MP Jonathan Djanogly, who will stand down at the next election said Hinchingbrooke's rebuild was "very good news indeed, adding: "While there is a long way to go until the new hospital building is open and supporting patients, I know that both I and others involved... will work closely with the government to help ensure it is delivered on time.”

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