Campaigners urge trust to reconsider ruling out new hospital for west Hertfordshire

Anne Main met campaigners for a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum. Picture: Ann

Anne Main met campaigners for a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum. Picture: Anne Main's office - Credit: Archant

Campaigners are urging the NHS to reconsider ruling out a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum.

In January West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust (WHHT) and Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) ruled out building a new, central A&E hospital after being given a spending limit of £350 million.

However members of the New Hospital Campaign (NHC) argue that other NHS trusts have allowed new hospitals to be built, and claim renovating existing services at Watford General will not satisfy the needs of a growing population.

The Princess Alexandra NHS Trust, which belongs to the same transformation and sustainability partnership as WHHT, has backed plans to build a new hospital in Harlow instead of redeveloping an old site which was no longer fit for purpose.

Campaigner Andy Love said: “They will be putting most of the £350 million into Watford General and that means St Albans City Hospital won’t be getting the investment it needs.

“The WHHT are saying they can’t afford a new hospital and they have ruled it out - it should at least be evaluated before they go any further. In the long run a new hospital would be a lot cheaper because it would last 50 years rather than one which is a bottomless pit for expenditure.”

Andy also pointed out two new hospitals which are being built by Leeds Teaching Hospitals Trust, and new hospitals in Birmingham, Liverpool, Cambridge, Cardiff and Dumfries and Galloway.

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He said: “WHHT and HVCCG need to stop hiding behind their excuse that a new NHS Hospital cannot be afforded and engage with the Trusts that have decided a new hospital is affordable.”

St Albans MP Anne Main met with members of the New Hospital Campaign in Parliament on Tuesday, March 19, alongside prospective council candidate for Marshalswick North Claudio Duran.

Mrs Main said: “The decisions taken in the next few weeks and months on the future of healthcare in West Herts are incredibly important.

“We must ensure that whatever is decided will cater for the ever-growing population and we see a significant improvement in health care going forward.

“We must have clarity on costs. The Trust need to explain to people why they cannot afford a new hospital and why refurbishing the severely flawed Watford General Hospital is the best option for local people.

“Whatever happens, I will continue to fight to retain and significantly improve the services offered at St Albans Hospital. I will be writing to the Health Secretary following our meeting and I will be seeking answers to the important questions the group have continuously raised.”

Initially the trust’s strategic outline case required an investment of £600 to £800 million to redevelop both Watford General in Vicarage Road, Watford and St Albans City, which was rejected by the NHS regulator NHSI.

The NHC’s adviser Robert Scott submitted an FOI request to the trust, to find out about the physical condition of hospitals. This showed that over £200 million is needed to maintain the three hospital sites over the next 10 years.

A WHHT spokesperson said: “We acknowledge that some of our estate is well past its best - this is why we are pursuing major investment. We want to provide our patients and staff with better buildings and modern facilities.

“The funding threshold of approximately £350m is set by our regulators. Cost estimates for a new emergency and planned care hospital on a new site have been derived following the strict methodology set out by HM Treasury.

“These show that this option is at least double the amount we have been advised we should bid for. Therefore, we have excluded a new emergency and planned care hospital on a new site from our shortlist.

“All of the options shortlisted include keeping Watford General Hospital as a base from where emergency care and specialist services are delivered. All of these options include at least a third of new build at the Watford site.

“We are aware of the shortcomings of some of our buildings at Watford and we will replace those where this is the best use of public money. All of the shortlisted options include a degree of refurbishment at all of our sites.

“Our priority, whichever option is put forward for funding, is to provide a safe environment and to improve the experience of our patients and staff.”