Campaigners vow to continue fight for new hospital near St Albans after bid rejected

St Albans City Hospital. Picture: DANNY LOO

St Albans City Hospital. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Archant

Campaigners for a new hospital between St Albans, Hemel Hempstead and Watford have vowed to fight on after their bid was rejected.

A meeting of the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG), which funds health services in the area, voted to retain the present site at Vicarage Road, Watford as the local acute hospital for up to 60 years.

Both Watford General Hospital and St Albans City Hospital will be redeveloped on their existing sites, with the New Hospital Campaign’s (NHC) proposal for a new hospital on a greenfield site by junction 20 on the M25 rejected.

The NHC said the decision was “absolutely no surprise”.

But the campaign group has now written to the next-level body, the Hertfordshire and West Essex Sustainability and Transformation Programme (STP), to appeal the decision.

Ten files of evidence, which were initially sent to the HVCCG, have now been sent to the STP. They include five papers by Robert Scott, an expert in construction with experience of NHS projects.

Mr Scott said: “There is absolutely no doubt their construction proposals to redevelop or refurbish the Watford site are badly flawed and the costs that they have reported on are totally underestimated.

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“Construction of a new hospital on a clear site can be delivered more quickly at a significantly lower cost, and the end result would be far superior.”

But HVCCG argues building on the new site is the quickest, most straightforward, and most cost-effective option.

Chairman of the HVCCG Board, Dr Nicolas Small, said: “The decision we took at our board meeting represents a big step towards our ambitions to provide improved hospital facilities, complemented by a wide range of more local, joined-up services that will meet the majority of people’s health and care needs, close to where they live.

“What we have said is that our priority and duty is to develop a workable proposal that we feel is realistic and capable of being delivered in a very challenging financial climate. We have, just this week, received a letter from our NHS regulators that stresses the need for our plans to be affordable.”

The trust’s timetable for redeveloping the Watford site is to complete in 2029 to 2030.

A NHC online petition for the new hospital gained more than 10,000 signatures - but a spokesman for the organisation said: “The petition has been treated by the NHS as though it did not exist.

“If the local NHS persists with its current course they will waste a great deal of scarce public money and ignore clearly-expressed public preference.”

Consultations with residents about the proposals has taken place over the last 18 months.

The STP will decide in the next few weeks whether to support the case, and it will then go to national bodies.