St Albans parliamentary candidates respond to calls for new A&E hospital
PUBLISHED: 12:25 10 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:25 10 December 2019
Campaigners for a new A&E hospital central to west Hertfordshire asked St Albans parliamentary candidates their views ahead of the General Election.
The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) is calling for a hospital which is easily accessible from St Albans, Watford and Dacorum, and have long argued that the existing Watford General site is unsuitable.
West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT) and Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) ruled out building a new hospital after being given a £350 million spending limit - instead planning to renovate Watford General, with smaller renovations made at St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead.
An additional £50 million was promised by the government, but NHS bosses say that is still not enough to fund a new hospital, and the NHC has now funded a legal challenge to HVCCG.
In a letter to parliamentary candidates, campaigner Andy Love said: "£400 million is an awful lot of public funds to be wasting on propping up the existing hospitals when we could be looking to invest these valuable resources in a brand new state-of-the-art A&E hospital. The new location could be far more accessible for St Albans residents than having to go to Watford."
Liberal Democrat candidate Daisy Cooper said: "The £400m government loan to WHHT is around half of what would be needed to build a new hospital, by most estimations, so the money simply isn't there.
"Even if the government loan were more or less doubled - doubling the amount of savings that would need to be made day-to-day - it would most likely mean that St Albans City hospital would have to be closed down and some important services made available only outside the city.
"Local front-line clinicians have themselves said that their preferred option is to upgrade Watford, St Albans and Hemel and the treasury has made it clear that the funding for a brand new all-purpose hospital is simply not available. Notwithstanding, my offer to meet with the campaigners if and when their detailed and costed plan is available, stands.
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"As a country, we must urgently invest real money in social care, public and mental health services to reduce the number of people that need to go to hospital."
Green Party candidate Simon Grover emphasised the importance of delivering services locally. He said: "I am certainly in favour of healthcare being delivered as locally as possible, and acknowledge that the arrangement of hospitals now serving St Albans just doesn't work.
"I was born in St Albans hospital back in the day when that was possible. I've been aware of complaints about and problems with the service (almost) ever since.
"The response that the government has offered us X so we'd better just make the best of it seems inadequate to me. The Green Party manifesto proposes an increase to NHS funding of £6 billion a year, every year for ten years. This would get health funding up to around the average for northern Europe."
Labour candidate Rebecca Lury said: "The Labour Party locally has been involved in ongoing discussions about the future of the NHS within the local area, and we continue to back the option to redevelop and expand services in all three districts.
"During consultation events, it became clear that there was no prospect of funding in the current spending round for a new hospital, and to miss out on securing funding once again would have left our services in a far worse situation.
"If elected, I will continue to press for improvements on the transport issues which make Watford feel like a sub-optimal solution, including lobbying for direct bus routes; supporting moves for greater community-led and community-delivered medical services, to reduce the need for hospital admissions; and pressing for an extended-hours urgent treatment centre in St Albans."
Conservative candidate Anne Main said: "I want a new hospital as much as anyone else, but it does not seem like a realistic prospect and further delay could risk us missing out on the bid process. We are getting a lot of new funding from the Government to completely revamp Watford General and we will see significant improvement of St Albans City Hospital too.
"I welcome this new money and the focus the Conservative Government is giving to improve healthcare for people in St Albans."