New hospital scheme faces financial cutbacks

A scaled-back version of the new Watford Hospital could materialise.

A scaled-back version of the new Watford Hospital could materialise. - Credit: Danny Loo

Plans for the new hospital on the Watford General site could be watered down after government officials asked to see a cheaper alternative.

No exact figure has been put on the cost of the proposed new hospital, but it is in excess of the £400m initially promised to West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT) by PM Boris Johnson in October 2019.

Now officials from the government’s New Hospital Programme have told hospital bosses to submit an alternative option that would cost £400m or less – alongside their existing proposals. 

Bosses at WHHT are not saying what changes they would have to make to meet the tighter budget, but it could mean the refurbishment of existing buildings at the Vicarage Road site and less new build.

Ultimately it will be up to national bosses of the government’s New Hospital Programme to determine which of a range of options will be funded.

But in the wake of the pandemic the trust has had to incorporate an increased number of single rooms into the plans, increasing costs.

They have also built in a greater level of technology, as part of digital integration in the NHS – with further additional measures reflecting the importance of net zero carbon.

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But the New Hospital Programme has told the WHHT that the new hospitals must be "delivered within a finite and carefully controlled budget envelope", and any decision to increase funding to one scheme will require trade-offs elsewhere.

WHHT’s acute redevelopment programme director Duane Passman said: “At this early stage, we are working with the New Hospital Programme to ensure value for money and no expectations have been set about maximum costs.

“Our outline planning application for the Watford site has just been approved by the local council. Our vision is for each hospital to have a clearly defined purpose and to maintain a range of local services.

“Emergency, in-patient and complex care will remain at Watford General; Hemel Hempstead Hospital will be the site for planned medical care and long term conditions and St Albans City Hospital will provide planned surgery and cancer care.

“Urgent care services and some outpatient services will be provided at all three sites. Diagnostic facilities will be significantly upgraded at all three hospitals and the latest digital technology will be incorporated. There is also strong clinical support for this model.”