Extra funding up for grabs for new hospital in place of Watford General

There are further calls for West Herts Hospitals Trust to consider a brand new hospital as more fund

There are further calls for West Herts Hospitals Trust to consider a brand new hospital as more funding becomes available. Picture: Archant - Credit: Archant

West Herts Hospital Trust will be able to bid for a further £590 million for its hospital refurbishment project – bringing more hope for a new, central hospital.

It has been revealed that the Department for Health and Social Care has told the trust it could look at more expensive options when considering its next steps in the Hospital Infrastructure Programme – HIP One.

A stakeholder group was set up by the trust last month to keep the public involved in the process, ahead of setting out its Outline Business Case which would provide a more detailed plan.

Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning attended a virtual meeting of the stakeholder group.

During the meeting the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust admitted it has been told it can now bid for £590 million.

Sir Mike said: “This is fantastic news – it means that a new hospital on a central site is really affordable.

“Numerous new hospitals are being built across the country on similar budgets.

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“The trust can no longer hide behind the ‘there is not enough money’ excuse to reject the new site option.

“It is obvious that a new site would be easier and quicker than any disastrous attempt to renovate the crumbling Watford General Hospital whilst trying to keep it operational at the same time.

“Quite simply, this is a great opportunity and the trust would be foolish not to grasp it.”

Groups, such as the New Hospital Campaign, have been lobbying for the trust to use the funding awarded by the government to build an entirely new hospital to replace Watford General Hospital.

Most recently, it has used research stating that single-room provisions could prevent the spread of infections to back up its argument that the current building is not fit for purpose.

Helen Brown, deputy chief executive at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “Our use of digital technology has sky rocketed over the last few months and we were pleased to use these new skills to meet with more than 60 people over two meetings this week to talk about hospital redevelopment.

“We were even more pleased to share the news that the Department of Health and Social Care has said that we could look at options that would require more than the £400 million we had previously been told might be available.

“It was confirmed that an option of a new build at Watford General Hospital, including replacing rather than refurbishing the main clinical block, could be one of the options we consider. This would cost approximately £590m.

“However, there is no guarantee at this stage that this funding is available.

“Our intention is to find the best solution that also meets the criteria that we are developing, with input from our newly formed stakeholder reference group.

“We are aware that the mention of potential larger investment is of interest to those who want to see an all new hospital on another site.

“This option will be part of our longlist and will be subject to the same rigorous process as the other possibilities we will be looking at.”

She added: “We continue to make information available on our website and to share news of any other developments in this exciting project and we are also continuing to welcome new members to our stakeholder reference group.”

St Albans resident and new hospital campaigner Andy Love told the Herts Ad: “It’s down to the trust to put a case forward that the extra funding gives value for money.

“The exciting bit for us is that possible sites for a new hospital are right on the doorstep for St Albans.

“It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to get the hospital that the whole area needs – to think that an extra £240 million may be available to them, and that’s from the work of the campaigners – that’s one helluva boost.

“The dilapidated Watford General Hospital site needs to be vacated and levelled to achieve anything like a new hospital but of course it has to remain operational whilst any major reconstruction takes place.

“Originally, they said an entirely new hospital wasn’t affordable – now it’s down to it being deliverable.

More information can be found on at www.westhertshospitals.nhs.uk/about/healthierfutureforwestherts.