NHS bosses put forward options for renovating west Hertfordshire hospitals
PUBLISHED: 17:13 11 June 2019 | UPDATED: 17:13 11 June 2019
NHS bosses are likely to back a major redevelopment of Watford General Hospital, while local campaigners continue to fight for a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum.
West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT) and Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) held a joint meeting on Thursday, June 6 where they chose submitting a £350 million bid to improve existing hospital sites as their 'preferred way forward'.
The trust previously ruled out building an new central hospital after being given a £350 million spending limit, and will instead invest in Watford General while retaining and improving services at both St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals.
Under the preferred proposal, known as 'option one', there would be two new clinical buildings on the Vicarage Road site in Watford, incorporating a new theatre suite, a new womens' and children's unit and a new ward block.
The existing Princess Michael of Kent building would be refurbished and there would be a purpose-built car park, with a portion of land at the site sold off for housing.
St Albans City Hospital would be enhanced as a planned surgical facility, including a new cancer and surgical centre with a diagnostic suite. There would also be refurbishments to theatres and inpatient beds, and the development of a small high-dependency unit.
Meanwhile Hemel Hempstead Hospital would become a planned medical centre with services consolidated into a redeveloped complex, which would include a new urgent treatment centre.
Local campaigners, however, are arguing that a new hospital should still be considered, and would be in a more accessible location and with improved facilities to better serve a growing population.
Edie Glatter, a member of the New Hospital Campaign (NHC) steering group, described the money going to Watford General as a "short-term fix which will quickly unravel".
She said: "The patients throughout west Hertfordshire will accelerate their exodus to other neighbouring hospitals over the decade or more that this challenging and hazardous rebuilding process is in train.
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"The large injection of money into Watford Hospital won't even give us facilities up to present-day NHS standards, let alone ones fit for future, and will leave St Albans and Hemel Hospitals with barely anything worthwhile."
Fellow campaigner Andy Love, who lives in St Albans, said: "Simply discarding [a new hospital] as unaffordable without full evaluation and identifying a specific site is irrational and suggests it was an option that both boards were never interested in."
The WHHT and HVCCG will present an update in a public meeting on Thursday, June 13 at Metropolitan Police Bushey Sports Club in Aldenham Road, Bushey from 7pm to 9pm, and members of the public are encouraged to attend and give feedback on the preferred way forward.
On Thursday, July 11 the WHHT board will make their decision on the option to be submitted for investment at a specially convened public meeting. Later that day, HVCCG will meet to consider the trust's decision and reach their own conclusion.
Local people will be invited to make representations at both of the board meetings, and the final submission for funding will be made in the summer in time for consideration in the government's comprehensive spending review.
Addressing the calls for a new hospital, a statement from the trust and the CCG said: "Both boards are aware that there is a wish in some communities for a new emergency and planned care hospital on a new site.
"This option was not on the shortlist. Costings carried out (in line with Treasury guidelines), showed that it would cost around double the amount set by regulators as our funding threshold."
The plan to renovate existing hospitals was backed by Lib Dem Cllr Kareen Hastrick, who argued that Watford is the 'most suitable option'.
Phil Townsend, chair of the WHHT board, said: "These are exciting times - we are closer to securing a major investment than we have been for a long time.
"While we would always be happy with more money, we recognise that anything in the region of £350m will make a huge difference to the experience of our patients and staff across west Hertfordshire."
To register for Thursday's meeting go to https://hospital-plans-meeting.eventbrite.co.uk