Harpenden’s Red House Hospital’s future in doubt

WITH its cracked walls and peeling ceilings, Harpenden’s “Red House” Memorial Hospital is hardly a picture of health.

The former private home of Sir Halley Stewart, vice-chairman of the London Brick Company, on Carlton Road, is the focus of a major feasibility study into future healthcare in the town.

Recent changes to the structure of the NHS in the county mean that from April 2013 ownership of the dilapidated site will pass to Hertfordshire NHS Community Trust.

Chief executive of the trust David Law said that ideally a new modern clinic should be provided for residents.

He explained: “The Red House is in pretty bad shape structurally and it would be uneconomic to patch it up.

“The better option is to investigate how we could fund a new modern purpose-built facility for the town, retaining the best elements of the old, and delivering the sort of high value healthcare that residents have said they want close to or in their homes.”

David added: “To meet the likely building costs we’d need to look at selling a portion of the land the Red House currently occupies and to investigate partnering with other healthcare organisations who deliver services in the area.”

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St Albans district councillor for Harpenden south Teresa Heritage said while Red House had provided local health services for many years, “sadly the fabric of the building has become run down and services are having to be delivered elsewhere.

“I consider it is essential for residents to receive their medical care locally as travelling to St Albans, Watford and Luton is stressful and expensive.”

Red House was rebuilt in 1896, and was offered by Sir Stewart to the town to use as a hospital in 1930.

While treatment rooms in the Red House annex, built before the Second World War, are in a poor state of repair, they are used daily by medical staff who deliver a range of outpatient services from the site.

A small-scale initial patient survey, conducted by the trust and Cllr Heritage, of around 130 Harpenden residents and residents’ groups representatives, showed that providing care for older people was considered a priority.

This was closely followed by provision of clinical services such as phlebotomy (blood tests) and physiotherapy.

Respondents also said they would like additional services geared towards improving general health and wellbeing such as fitness and exercise, and weight reduction advice.

Harpenden residents will be asked to share their views on the future of community healthcare services in spring.

Over the next few months a small advisory group will work with the trust to clarify what is feasible for the site.