The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn.
Safer Summer Staycation

A review has been launched into every coronavirus-related death at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital as it moves towards the “recovery phase” of the pandemic.

An independent clinician will be looking into the deaths of 152 patients who tested positive for the virus, board members heard this week.

The review will look at whether any of the deaths could have been avoided and what could be learned from each case to help the hospital to cope with future cases or a second wave of coronavirus.

In a report to the hospital board on Tuesday, chief operating officer Denise Smith said 138 deaths had been reviewed so far, and no shortcomings in the hospital’s care had been found.

As of June 30, the QEH has treated 450 patients who tested positive for the virus and this week the number of recovering COVID-19 patients able to be discharged reached 296.

Visiting is still only allowed in exceptional circumstances, such as end of life or for birthing partners.

But Mrs Smith’s report said the restrictions would be reviewed this month following a change in national guidance.

“This will mean that one close family member, or someone important to the patient, will be able to book an appointment to visit,” the report said.

“Visitors must wear masks or face coverings at all times and will be advised on other arrangements in place, such as social distancing, wearing personal protective equipment and handwashing.

“Where a face-to-face visit is not practical, we will continue to facilitate virtual visiting for our patients and their loved ones.”

Routine care and treatment has recently re-started at the QEH at around 50 per cent of capacity compared to usual to allow social distancing and extra cleaning to be carried out.

Chief executive Caroline Shaw told the board that, as it entered the “COVID recovery phase”, the trust faced a backlog of thousands of patients who could not be seen during the crisis.

“Suspending many of our routine services as we prepared for the height of the initial surge in the first phase of the pandemic has adversely affected our performance in a number of areas.

“At the end of May, the total trust waiting list was 12,005 and the total backlog of patients waiting more than 18 weeks was 5,056,” she reported.

Fewer patients attending accident and emergency during lockdown meant the hospital performed well against the national four-hour wait target, the board heard.

Mrs Smith said support from the community continued to go “from strength to strength” and the hospital’s COVID-19 Charitable Fund had raised more than £59,000.

The appeal was launched to buy extras for staff and patients during the pandemic, including 10 park benches in the grounds, new air conditioning units in the medical records library and new kitchen equipment for staff rest rooms.

“We are looking into further upgrades to rest rooms and additional bike racking for staff,” the report went on.

“We are incredibly grateful for this fantastic support, which continues to inspire us all, when we needed it most.”

At Prime Minster’s Questions this week, North West Norfolk MP James Wild paid tribute to the staff’s dedication during the pandemic and called for the QEH to be included in the government’s hospital building programme. 

He said the 40-year-old hospital served more than 300,000 people but had only been built to last 30 years.

The hospital’s COVID-19 Charitable Fund JustGiving page can be found at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/qehcovid19support

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