Campaigners fight for hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum at public meeting
- Credit: Archant
Campaigners for a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum questioned NHS bosses at a series of public meetings in October.
The meetings were held in St Albans, Elstree and Hemel Hempstead for the West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT) and Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) to inform residents on the future of A&E hospitals and planned surgery services.
WHHT and HVCCG’s strategic outline case (SOC) sets out their vision to redevelop or rebuild Watford General Hospital, allowing it to remain the location for emergency and specialised care in west Herts.
They also plan to redevelop St Albans City Hospital to support an increase in surgical procedures carried out there, as well as introducing expanded outpatient services and diagnostic facilities.
The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) has long argued that a new central A&E hospital would be more accessible than the existing services at Watford General, however audiences at the meetings were told that redeveloping the hospital’s Vicarage Road site is still the NHS’s preferred option.
The New Hospital Campaign acknowledged the need for compromise between campaigners and the local NHS to avoid losing the chance of capital funding, but believes that a new central hospital would be the best compromise for everyone in the area.
NHC spokesman Ron Glatter said: “Redeveloping Watford General would be much more expensive, drawn-out over 10 years or more and a highly disruptive process threatening patient safety and leading to a much poorer result.
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“[A new hospital] would also be far more accessible to most residents of West Herts than the present site in Vicarage Road.”
At the St Albans meeting, campaigner Andy Love told NHS managers it would take an hour and a half to get from the meeting venue in Beaconsfield Road to Watford General by bus, and the round trip by taxi would cost £50.
Edie Glatter, of the NHC, said: “We have struggled enough with access problems over the years to Watford. We have been faced with numerous schemes for a new hospital none of which ever materialised and this could turn out to be the worst.
“Watford was condemned by hospital planners as beyond repair/rebuild years ago yet that appears to be the favoured option for A+E services. It is beyond belief.”
However the local NHS believes that if a new hospital was built a few miles north of Watford the hospital trust would lose patients to north London hospitals, which would not be able to cope with the demand.
Edie said: “Surely a newly built state-of-the-art hospital would attract many more patients and staff, both from West Herts and other areas, as well as meeting required standards and providing a better service for all?”
Labour Party spokeswoman Liz McCann, who attended the meeting, warned St Albans residents not to ignore the chance to have their voices heard.
She said: “Residents of St Albans were poorly represented at the meeting in terms of numbers, however there was a vociferous and quite belligerent group in attendance from Hemel Hempstead all voicing their opinion that Watford Hospital should close and is not fit for either geography or purpose.
“They spoke too about land values in St Albans and wanted to know the approximate residential value the hospital site here in St Albans might be worth. Should we be concerned? Yes!”
WHHT laid out their aims in the meeting, stating: “Our aim is to deliver a high quality and sustainable emergency service and a comprehensive range of planned care services which are accessible to patients across west Herts.
“While not all communities will see an expansion of all services on their doorstep, the plan is for the population as a whole to be well served by a wide and well planned range of health services.”
Acting chief executive Helen Brown said: “We’ll look at the feasibility of an alternative option that would bring planned care onto a single site. However, the proposal to develop planned care on the St Albans and Hemel Hempstead Hospital sites as set out in the original SOC currently remains our preferred way forward.”