City hospital's future is thrown into doubt

PUBLISHED: 12:37 26 January 2006 | UPDATED: 20:19 03 May 2010

A MAJOR question mark hangs over the future of St Albans City Hospital following a decision not to transfer it into the hands of the local Primary Care Trust. The West Herts Hospital Trust (WHHT) has withdrawn its agreement to hand over the hospital to th

A MAJOR question mark hangs over the future of St Albans City Hospital following a decision not to transfer it into the hands of the local Primary Care Trust. The West Herts Hospital Trust (WHHT) has withdrawn its agreement to hand over the hospital to the St Albans and Harpenden Primary Care Trust (PCT) which was planning to develop it as a local facility with a full diagnostic and treatment centre and other facilities. The decision has led to fears that the cash-strapped WHHT will consider selling off the remainder of the valuable St Albans City site for housing leaving no local facilities to serve the city. In December it was revealed that the opening of a new surgicentre at Hemel Hempstead Hospital in late 2007 would spell the end of most day surgery in St Albans. John Bennett, chair of the PCT, confirmed at last Thursday's board meeting that WHHT had withdrawn their agreement to transfer St Albans City Hospital. Peter Williams, chair of the St Albans and Harpenden Patient Forum, said this week that there were no clear reasons for the decision but there had been some mention of the financial interests of WHHT - forecast to be £28.6million overspent at the end of the current financial year. Mr Williams maintained that the Strategic Health Authority's blueprint for the future, Investing In Your Health, called for services to be developed locally to minimise the need for people to travel to the big general hospitals. He warned that under Government plans, all hospital trusts would become independent bodies by 2008 controlling their own finances. And with WHHT having no responsibility for developing local services, he feared they could want to develop the City Hospital site. Alternatively, they might be considering charging the PCT to use City Hospital which would reduce the amount of money available for locally-provided services. Mr Williams pointed out that the original draft of Investing In Your Health suggested that St Albans City Hospital would go when the new hospital at Hatfield was built. He added: "I personally am quite worried." Mr Bennett said yesterday (Wednesday) that he appreciated the concerns raised by the patient forum about the future ownership of City Hospital but wanted to reassure patients that the PCT was committed to working with their partners to develop services there and provide care closer to where patients lived. He added: "We are continuing to look to develop local services in relation to Investing In Your Health and using this programme as a means to provide a range of services at the City Hospital." A spokesperson for WHHT said: "With the current planned reorganisation of the PCTs, the Trust has decided this is not the best time to transfer ownership of the site." n Should St Albans keep its own hospital.? Have your say in our online poll at www.hertsad.co.uk

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