Reasoning behind hospital trust redevelopment plans debunked in new independent report

Front of Watford General Hospital with welcome sign at entrance

Watford General Hospital - Credit: Danny Loo

A new independent report has concluded that proposed developments to the regions' hospitals may take longer than building a new hospital on a fresh site.

The report, which was published on Monday, December 14, aims criticism at the plans of the West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT) for the future of the area’s hospitals, which include Watford General on Vicarage Road, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead.

Planning consultant Mike Naxton, who drew up the report, disagrees with the plans currently favoured by the Trust – which predominantly involve building and demolishing parts of existing hospitals rather than starting anew.

Campaigners believe the report proves that a new hospital on a clear, convenient central site would provide better value for money and speedier delivery of new hospital facilities than the “desperate and dysfunctional” options favoured by the Trust.

Mr Naxton’s report, commissioned by the New Hospital Campaign, uses advanced software to assess the options and concludes that a new emergency care hospital on a new site could be built up to three years quicker than the Trust’s favoured option of a mixture of demolition, refurbishment and some new build at Watford General.

The report shows that the Trust’s statements have systematically exaggerated the time it would take to build a new hospital on a new site, while unrealistically minimising the time it would take to carry out its plans for Vicarage Road.

It also reveals that a ‘Site Feasibility Report’ (SFR) produced in August 2020 by the property arm of WHHT’s corporate partner, the Royal Free Hospital London (RFLPS), offered blinkered evidence to make the case for Vicarage Road.

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New Hospital Campaign (NHC) member, building expert Robert Scott, called on WHHT to take a good look at the facts and give all the options a fair chance: “The thorough and detailed Naxton Report sets out the true facts about WHHT’s plans, and shows that there has been a systematic attempt by the Trust to massage the completion dates.

“The Trust is clearly keen to prove that it can have many new facilities in place at Watford by 2025, but it is likely to be wrong.

“The Trust has not fairly set out the case for proper appraisal of the option of a new hospital on a clear new site, basing its view on timelines that are full of the SFR’s exaggerated and inaccurate assumptions, as Mr Naxton makes clear.

“We at the NHC, especially those of us with experience of delivering large and complex projects, have watched with concern as the Trust has failed to take account of key considerations.”

Under this current proposal, St Albans City Hospital will also undergo some redevelopment, sharing a portion of the ‘significant investment’ intended for St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospital sites.

Front of St Albans City Hospital with welcome sign at entrance

St Albans City Hospital - Credit: Danny Loo

Planned care will continue to go ahead in St Albans, with patients having to travel to Watford General for emergency and specialist care, as well as elective treatments.

A central hospital site, which campaigners have been petitioning for, would eradicate the need for residents in our area to travel into Watford for treatment, and also ensure state-of -the-art, modern technology to be at the forefront of the development for those living in all areas covered by West Herts Hospital Trust.

Mr Scott added: “The Trust now need to accept that they were wrong to ignore the strong claims of campaigners for a convenient central site for hospitals in West Herts, undertake a proper search for such a site, and agree to examine all options fairly.

“The Trust owe nothing less to the people of West Herts.”

To read the full report, visit