Patients kept in the dark over plans for St Albans Hospital

St Albans City Hospital

St Albans City Hospital - Credit: Archant

Postponing publication of plans outlining the future shape of St Albans City Hospital is causing ongoing uncertainty and is not fair on local people, a patient group has said.

John Wigley, chair of St Albans and Harpenden Patient Group (SAPG), has criticised health chiefs for being vague about their clinical strategy, saying the district, “deserves an overall plan for its future hospital services”.

He went on: “Services have been reduced at St Albans. What are the plans for Hemel Hempstead and St Albans? What eventually happens at Watford Hospital will have implications for them.

“The question, and answer, is important for the people of St Albans and Harpenden because thousands of them are treated at all three hospitals.”

John warned that if health chiefs took another 12-18 months to finalise the clinical strategy, “its actual implementation might take a very long time”.

He told the Herts Advertiser: “It is leading to a lot of uncertainty, and it’s very hard to get any information about what is or isn’t happening.

“We are still scratching our heads over the future.”

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The patients’ group is also seeking clarification on whether day surgery will be relocated to St Albans Hospital.

A spokeswoman for West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust replied: “We can confirm that there are no current plans to relocate the day surgery unit at St Albans.”

She said that over the past few months the trust had been working with staff, patient representatives and NHS partners to develop a long-term clinical and financial strategy.

That would help determine services provided across the local area, and put forward proposals for the long-term future shape of all three hospitals.

She admitted that the trust had expected to publish the strategy at the end of last year.

But, due to “significant changes to our board over recent months, including the appointment of a new chair and four new non-executive directors,” the board will meet this month to discuss the strategy further.

Health bosses were forced to reassure St Albans residents last August that the local hospital was not under threat of closure, despite rumours to the contrary.

At that time, this paper was told there would continue to be health services offered from the hospital but the possibility of selling part of the site was being considered in a review.