Hertfordshire's "crumbling" hospitals are falling victim to the government's "dither and delay", the MP for St Albans has said.

Daisy Cooper, who is also the Liberal Democrat spokesperson for health and social care, has questioned whether the Conservative government can deliver on their 2019 general election commitment to build 40 new hospitals by 2030.

Her comments follow a visit by Minister for Health Maria Caulfield to an NHS 111 call centre in Welwyn Garden City on Wednesday, July 27.

In an interview, the minister told this newspaper that a new hospital building project for the St Albans and Watford area is one of 48 being considered for funding by the Department for Health and Social Care in 2022.

%image(14501096, type="article-full", alt="Minister for Health Maria Caulfield visited the Hertfordshire NHS 111 call centre in Welwyn Garden City on July 27")

Daisy Cooper said: "The Conservative promise of 40 new hospitals by 2030 is looking more and more like fantasy."

She added: "West Hertfordshire have advanced plans to replace the crumbling buildings at Watford General and make much needed improvements to St Albans City Hospital – but they’re being hampered by dither and delay by the Tory government in releasing the funds to get this underway.

"I’ve been fighting to get the cash to our local trust as soon as possible.

"In July, I called for the government to publish a clear timetable to release the funds, and release the cash to start development at our local hospitals.

"Needless to say they’re still refusing to do so."

%image(14501099, type="article-full", alt="Daisy Cooper, MP for St Albans, said: "I’ve been fighting to get the cash to our local trust as soon as possible"")

%image(14501100, type="article-full", alt="Daisy Cooper MP said plans to improve Watford General Hospital are being "hampered by dither and delay" from the government")

Daisy Cooper pointed out that the National Audit Office is holding a "value for money" review into the programme.

The NAO said it does not intend to publish its findings until 2023.

The MP said: "Hertfordshire desperately needs the Tories to put their money where their mouth is."

A record 6.6 million patients were waiting for consultant-led secondary care in May 2022, according to the latest NHS England statistics. Of these patients, 782,365 were based in the East of England.

On her visit to Welwyn Garden City last week, Maria Caulfield said the government is investing £50 million into the NHS 111 service in England to help GPs and other primary care providers handle the problems caused by backlogs elsewhere in the system.

%image(14501101, type="article-full", alt="David Archer, CEO of HUC, which runs the Welwyn Garden City NHS 111 call centre, with health minister Maria Caulfield MP")

%image(14501102, type="article-full", alt="Maria Caulfield, health minister, visited an NHS 111 call centre in Welwyn Garden City on Wednesday, July 27")

%image(14501103, type="article-full", alt="A record 6.6 million people are waiting for consultant-led secondary care, according to NHS England statistics (File picture)")

On new hospitals, Maria Caulfield said: "We have started with the new hospitals programme, with one completed already and the next tranche of construction started.

"For this area, I know that Watford and St Albans are one of 48 up for consideration in the next tranche and we're going through the plans at the moment.

"It's between now and 2030 and we've got some time to get construction underway."