NHS determined to redevelop existing hospital sites despite pressure from campaigners

Watford General Hospital

Watford General Hospital - Credit: Danny Loo

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) and Herts Valleys CCG say a report commissioned by a new hospital campaign group does not cause a reconsideration to be made regarding their latest hospital redevelopment plans. 

The independent report, commonly known as the Naxton Report, was commissioned by the New Hospital Campaign in December 2020 and aimed criticism at WHHT's plans for redeveloping Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, rather than building a brand new facility on a central site.

Planning consultant Mike Naxton, who drew up the report, disagreed with the plans currently favoured by the trust.

In their joint response, WHHT and HVCCG said: "We have thoroughly reviewed the report commissioned by the New Hospital Campaign and we asked our professional advisors - Royal Free London Property Services Limited – to do the same. Our conclusion is that it contains nothing that causes us to reconsider the decision in October 2020 to remove any new site options from our shortlist.

"The decision by our boards was strongly influenced by the faster and more straightforward path towards delivery offered by the Watford option.

"We believe that the transformation of the site and buildings at Watford and the redevelopment of the hospitals in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans provides the best opportunity to significantly improve our hospital facilities by 2025, or soon after. Our decision was based on good information and was driven by a determination to provide the best facilities for our patients.

"The report has been useful to help us test our thinking but it does not raise anything we had not previously considered. Some of the matters it covers will be addressed when we assess results from more detailed surveys."

The statement continued to say that upgrading existing buildings across the trust "is becoming a matter of urgency", and that work will continue "at pace to deliver better buildings and we are excited at the prospect of being able to provide these within the next five years".

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Although the geographic location of the hospital sites will remain the same, the trust and CCG maintain that each hospital will look and feel different when the refurb work concludes, which is expected to do so in 2025.

A spokesperson for the New Hospital Campaign said: "This is no surprise as we expected that kind of reply. The Naxton report was more independent than the trust's own study, which was a device designed and structured to eliminate all options based on a central, clear site. 

"The trust's reply fails to challenge anything in Mr Naxton's expert and independent report, which provides convincing evidence of the shortcomings of the decision taken last October to reject any new site out of hand.

"Building on the existing site will involve years of disruption just when we are trying to recover from the pandemic, and it won't be finished until the end of the 2020s.

"Their response is completely inadequate and we will continue to fight for the solution that most residents want, as the trust's own online survey last September clearly showed."

For more information and WHHT's engagement programme, visit westhertshospitals.nhs.uk/about/redevelopment.