PM to intervene in hold-up over new hospital for west Herts

Sir Mike Penning speaking at Prime Minister's Questions on November 24.

Sir Mike Penning speaking at Prime Minister's Questions on November 24. - Credit: UK Parliament

The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has vowed to “unblock” progress on a new hospital for West Hertfordshire “one way or another”, after the matter was raised in Parliament.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is currently developing its business case on a £590m rebuild of Watford General Hospital, which had been hoped to be completed by 2025.

The Trust is still outlining proposals to NHS England and central government which will establish exactly how much funding is granted to the project.

The preferred option is for an almost complete rebuild of Watford General on land next to the current hospital, with refurbishment work to Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City Hospitals.

Hemel Hempstead will have a focus on planned medical care and long term conditions, with St Albans providing planned surgery and cancer care.

It had been hoped that the hospitals would be nearing completion by 2025, but delays at a national level mean that construction work is now unlikely to start until 2024.

Those delays have prompted politicians on both sides of the debate to call for action to speed up the process.

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Earlier this month, local leaders including Watford Mayor Peter Taylor and St Albans district council leader Chris White joined St Albans MP Daisy Cooper and Watford representative Dean Russell in signing a letter asking for an update on when funding would be allocated to the local trust.

Now the Prime Minister has said he’ll ask the Secretary of State to meet those concerned.

Boris Johnson’s comments come after the matter was raised during Prime Minister’s Questions on November 24.

Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning asked for government intervention into the process, and called for a hospital in a location that would better serve his constituency.

Mr Penning, who has backed a new hospital on a green field site, claimed that the “local management of our trust has blocked it” and instead opted for a refurbishment of Watford General Hospital, to the detriment of his constituents.

He said: “Will you meet me and some of my constituents to unblock this and tell the NHS they need to build a new hospital for Hemel Hempstead?”

In response, the PM said he would be “very happy” to secure a meeting with Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and said: “I’m sure we’ll be able to unblock things one way or another.”

Following the question in Parliament, the Mayor of Watford, who backs the Trust’s plans for Watford General, said the government needed “to get on with” providing funding for the work.

Mr Taylor said: “For years, independent experts have looked into this and produced many reports. Every time they have concluded that the best way to improve facilities for all of us is to invest in new buildings at Watford General.

“The Trust have worked on a detailed case but now we need the government to get on with delivering the funding needed to make this a reality.

“The Prime Minister can unblock this by delivering the investment Watford General needs, now.”

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has previously said it is aiming to complete its Outline Business Case in summer 2022 and, following the start of work in 2024, is hopeful of new hospital facilities being open in 2027.

Helen Brown, deputy chief executive of the NHS Trust said: “We share Sir Mike’s desire to see new hospital facilities for our patients and staff as soon as possible. However, our strongly held view is that the best route to achieving this is major redevelopment at Watford General Hospital and improvements to our hospitals in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans. We are excited about our plans which are fully backed by our clinical staff.”