NHS Trust considers new hospital near St Albans and Hemel Hempstead

St Albans Hospital

St Albans Hospital - Credit: pic supplied

Plans for a new hospital near St Albans are a step closer to becoming reality as the clinical commissioning group will consider a new build rather than renovating existing services.

Watford General Hospital

Watford General Hospital - Credit: Archant

The NHS has recently rejected WHHT’s plans to expand St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, necessitating Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) to consider building a new hospital on greenfield land. The expansion proposal, which the NHS has been considering since February last year, was rejected on the grounds of being the estimated costs of between £300m and £700m were deemed to be too high.

The new facility for planned surgery would be built between St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, while the Watford General refurbishment would continue as planned.

Members of the New Hospital Campaign have long petitioned for an acute A&E hospital to be built central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum instead of renovating the existing services at Watford General. West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) plans to develop Watford General, which is based in Vicarage Road, Watford, over a period of 12 years, but campaigners argue that the hospital is difficult to access via public transport and the redevelopment will cause severe disruption.

Campaigner Andy Love, who petitioned for the new A&E hospital central to west Herts, said: “The fact that WHHT and HVCCG will now have to review their long-term hospital plans is great news but we are still a long way from getting the new A&E Hospital that West Herts so desperately needs and what I and the New Hospital Campaign Group have been calling for.

“The need for a new A&E Hospital is even more critical given that the population in West Herts is due to grow by around 150,000 in the next 15 years.

“For WHHT to be now contemplating a new hospital for only planned care and outpatient appointments, operations involving risk require acute services to be available, is not solving the problems residents have with West Herts current A&E Hospital at Vicarage Road.

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“WHHT needs to bite the bullet and build a new A&E Hospital for the whole of West Herts. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity and a chance to leave a legacy for future generations to benefit from.”

Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning has previously urged the Government to back Andy’s campaign, and has welcomed the news of a potential new hospital.

He said: “There is still a long way to go, but it is about time they wake up and smell the coffee. It is not only common sense but proven to be the most cost-effective option.

“A new state-of-the-art hospital on a central site, with room for expansion, level and free car parking would provide for the communities of Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans for the next two generations if not more.

“It would also be ideally located to serve as a backup for any major incidents on the M1, M25, Luton or Heathrow airports and north west London.”

HVCCG has invited Mike Penning, St Albans MP Anne Main, Hitchin and Harpenden MP Bim Afolami and West Herts MP David Gauke to attend a meeting discussing the proposals.

Ron Glatter, of the New Hospital Campaign, welcomed the change of heart by health bosses, but questioned why Watford MP Richard Harrington was not included. He said: “It suggests that they are still looking at our area as divided in two – Watford and the rest. This approach is disastrous.

“West Herts must be looked at as a whole, with an integrated approach to acute and primary care, which has been missing so far.”

A statement from WHHT and the HVCCG said: “We are continuing to work actively to secure funding for the much-needed redevelopment of hospital facilities

“We are refreshing our strategic outline case at the request of NHS regulators who want us to do further work on some aspects of our proposals in light of national funding pressures.

“While indicating that our case for investment is clear, they have told us that access to capital is extremely limited and our proposals must be affordable.

“NHS Improvement has asked West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust to consider a phased redevelopment based on retaining emergency and critical care services at Watford General Hospital. This is still the most affordable and deliverable option and also the least likely to affect patient attendances at neighbouring hospitals.

“The redevelopment of St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals remains our agreed proposal for planned care and we will use the refresh of the strategic outline case to revisit plans for these services.

“In particular we will look at whether there is the potential to develop a new facility that would offer a range of planned and urgent care services similar to those currently provided at St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals. More work is required to determine whether this is a viable option and has merit over the currently agreed option.

“Our priority is on putting forward realistic proposals to help us progress quickly so that we aren’t at the back of the queue for funding.

“We will be holding some events to discuss this with residents during October and November and will announce these dates soon.”