Photo: Jacqueline Mulhallen Photo: Jacqueline Mulhallen

Local community campaigners in Norfolk confront both former prime minister Liz Truss and the current Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay in their determined fight for a new hospital, reports Jacqueline Mulhallen

On Saturday 26 November, a group of protesters stood outside the surgery of ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss in Swaffham, Norfolk.  They were wearing hard hats and hi-vis jackets to show that workers at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, King’s Lynn, (QEH) are working on a building site. The hospital was built in 1980 to last 30 years so it has not just reached the end of its life, it is really now a ghost!  The roof used Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) planks, a material with serious weaknesses designed to last only 30 years and now dangerously past its sell-by date. While the structure includes over 3000 steel and timber support props, there are only 500 beds inside. The community needs a new hospital and campaigners are determined to get one.

The group proceeded to Swaffham Market where they collected signatures to accompany a giant Christmas card to the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Steve Barclay, asking for a new hospital for Christmas. Barclay is MP for Wisbech, many of whose constituents use QEH. Former Truss supporters remarked ‘It didn’t do much good having a local Prime Minister’ and noted that although Truss turned up last week to visit the hospital this was the first time she had shown any interest at all.

Despite the difficulties, staff at the QEH are highly praised and in August 2022 the Trust was shortlisted for the Trust of the Year award from the Health Service Journal. Those who signed the petition were high in their praise of the staff – it is only the state of the hospital building that was criticised and the Tory government for neglecting it and ignoring local needs.

Jo Rust said,

“Bearing in mind the hospital has had the RAAC planks on their risk register from as far back as 2006, it’s pure opportunism that Truss should try and jump on the band wagon at this end stage.  None of the long-standing Tory MPs did anything about the matter before and North West Norfolk had had the same MP practically the whole time since 1983. This is our hospital, we’re the ones who rely on it and we’re the ones who have been fighting tirelessly to save it since April 2021”.

The campaigners are continuing their fight.

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Jacqueline Mulhallen

Jacqueline Mulhallen, actor and playwright, has co-ordinated King’s Lynn Stop the War since 2003 and initiated and organised 14 Women for Change talks for King’s Lynn & District Trades Council (2012/2013). Her books include The Theatre of Shelley (Openbooks, 2010), and a Shelley biography (Pluto Press, 2015). Her plays include 'Sylvia' and 'Rebels and Friends’.

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