West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust receives government funding boost

West Herts Hospitals Trust, which runs St Albans City Hospital, is set to receive a government fundi

West Herts Hospitals Trust, which runs St Albans City Hospital, is set to receive a government funding boost. Photo: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

A government funding boost has been given to West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) to renovate buildings and improve mental health care.

WHHT is one of six hospital trusts in the UK to benefit from a £2.7 billion funding investment from the government, which is intended to fund hospital projects over the next five years.

WHHT chief executive Christine Allen said: "We are delighted that the need for significant funding has been met with an investment plan for our buildings and facilities.

"Our staff have been working incredibly hard over recent years to raise our standards of care, but over this time our estate has continued to decline.

"While there have been pockets of investment, our current estate takes time and money to keep safe. Our improvement programme has done much for patient care and staff morale but it can feel like an uphill struggle when we are challenged by the many issues that come from having ageing buildings and facilities.

"There have been numerous plans over years to transform our estate but these have never been awarded the funding to proceed. Our patients and staff can now look forward to receiving and providing care in modern surroundings.

"We are working closely with regulators and our colleagues in the CCG [Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group] and will share our proposals as soon as possible."

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The trust is unable to confirm the amount of funding allocated to west Herts until discussions with NHS regulators have been finalised.

The government also invested £70 million in a national fund for community mental health services, which has been allocated by NHS England to just 12 ares across the UK.

Hertfordshire and West Essex Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) was chosen to receive a £4.5 million funding boost to improve specialist support for people with moderate to severe mental health illnesses.

Helping people with mental health issues in the local community can put a strain on GP practices, which are often the main source of support for people with mild or moderate needs. However people who need more specialist support from dedicated mental health services can find it difficult to get the help they need, when they need it.

Community mental health teams which work with people living in their own homes are designed to bridge the gap between GP and specialist hospital care.

Dr Geraldine O'Sullivan, consultant psychiatrist and the STP's clinical lead for mental health, said: "We will use the funding to test new ways of caring, with service users, GPs, local authorities, the voluntary sector, families and carers, and local communities working together.

"The new approaches we use will ultimately help set the standard for patients across the country who need access to better community mental health treatments."

The NHS Long Term Plan, published in January this year, placed a 'great emphasis' on the need to transform community mental health services, and Dr O'Sullivan thanked the strength of local partnerships for making the funding possible.

The funding will focus on improving the ways in which adults with complex mental health difficulties, who have been diagnosed with a personality disorder, are treated, improving services for patients with eating disorders, and testing new ways of supporting 18 to 25-year-olds with mental health problems and meeting the needs of different communities.

WHHT and the CCG have already been given a £350 million budget to renovate services at Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, with the bulk of the money to be spent on Watford General.

The trust was also recently named the 'best UK employer' by the Nursing Times, for its progress over the past few years in improving working life for its staff after coming out of 'special measures' in 2017.

This includes a nurse recruitment campaign, reduced use of agency staff and numerous initiatives to raise morale and engagement.

Chief nurse Tracey Carter said: "Nursing is a wonderful profession but it can be really hard work. We want our nurses - and all our staff - to enjoy their jobs and build their careers with us and that's why we've put in so much support for them."