'West Herts Hospital Trust do not have a vision', say new hospital campaigners

map of Chiswell Green site

Map of the Chiswell Green site, where a proposed central hospital could be placed. - Credit: Supplied by Steve Day

A new hospital campaign group has claimed that the information that the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group and West Herts Hospital Trust (WHHT) has used to make the shortlist decision has "misled councillors" and is "blatantly wrong".

The Herts Valleys Hospital group has challenged the declaration that financial cases - used to arrive at current decisions relating to the future of hospital redevelopments in the region - are backed up by evidence. 

Current plans involve redeveloping and building on existing hospital sites under WHHT, including Watford General, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City, rather than building a new hospital on a central site.

drawing of new hospital

Drawing of what a new, cedntral hospital on a new central site at Chiswell Green site, could look like. - Credit: Supplied by Steve Day

Steve Day, of the Herts Valleys Hospital group, said: "We're trying to do the right thing for everybody across West Hertfordshire."

The Herts Valleys Hospital group, which say they is trying to take a fresh approach to the hospital redevelopment campaign, state that there is a favouring of the Watford site, which is receiving a substantial portion of money, in a bid to centralise most of the services there. 

RELATED STORY: Reasoning behind hospital trust redevelopment plans debunked in new independent report

"There doesn't seem to be a financial case, even though the trust and CCG have said there is," Mr Day added.

"The trust should be the main people driving this, and the CCG should be the people scrutinising and commissioning it, adopting something they see as being the right thing to do for the community. But those lines are quite blurred at the moment.

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"The way it should work is that the CCG are ensuring that it's delivering what the county needs, and that it's financially prudent, et cetera. The trust should be coming up with plans that work for everybody, that's the theory. In practice, that doesn't happen.

"The point at the moment is, have they given it the right due diligence to get to this point? Up to this point, there's been scrutiny by one of our sister campaign groups, who have taken them to court in a judicial review. That was a high court judge saying when you arrived at your strategic outlying case, which is one of the three formal stages, you did that in the wrong manner."

Mr Day contacted the CCG to ask what public-facing motions had been put in place before arriving at the conclusions reached, but they had no way of proving to the Herts Valleys Hospital group that such events ever occurred.

After submitting an Freedom of Information (FOI) request, the 300-page document issued in response, according to Mr Day, showed that "there was not one public meeting" when outlining the plans.

Independent campaigner Andy Love said: "West Herts Hospital Trust do not have a vision. They have not told us what their vision is.

"All we can understand is that there will be one new big clinical block, which isn't overcoming all the problems people have in getting to Watford. The congested area that it's in, being on a steep slope, being next to a football ground - they're all things that the people of St Albans find extremely difficult. If your appointment was at 9am, you're going to have to set off extra early because of the amount of traffic on the M1! It's not close." 

Mr Love added that the redevelopment is not the best use of the funds made available to the area: "It's not a long term solution for the whole of West Herts.

"It may modernise the buildings at Watford, but it's not overcoming the issues people have with where the hospital is. It doesn't overcome the problems of spending £30 million on St Albans City Hospital, when it probably needs £150 million spent on it, meaning that there are serious concerns about the future of St Albans City Hospital.

"With the economy the way it is, with the virus; we don't know in the next 10 to 15 years what sort of money is going to be available. St Albans, when it has further needs for maintenance work to be done, there may be a shortfall of funding, which means that perhaps its future's in jeopardy."

In a joint statement, West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust and Herts Valleys CCG said: “The multi-million pound redevelopment of all our hospital sites is an exciting opportunity to transform patient care in west Hertfordshire for current and future generations. 

"We’re aiming to build a new hospital that will replace around 90 per cent of the current Watford General Hospital buildings as well investing in millions of pounds worth of improvements at St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals. These investments will deliver 21st century healthcare to our patients in modern hospital buildings that will stand the test of time. 

"The needs of patients are at the centre of our plans and we’re really keen to hear from local people and communities and involve them in shaping the design of our sites and how we organise services across all sites in a way that serves communities across west Hertfordshire. We will be launching a new programme of engagement early in the new year and will release more details of this soon.”

Hertfordshire County Council's health scrutiny committee are looking to investigate the lack of cost consideration.