West Hertfordshire hospital campaigners progress to next stage of legal challenge

Campaigners are launching a judicial review calling for a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford

Campaigners are launching a judicial review calling for a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum, rather than renovating services at Watford General. Picture: Danny Loo. - Credit: Archant

Hospital campaigners have won the first stage of their legal challenge calling for a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum.

The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) applied for a judicial review after Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) and West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust (WHHT) stated their preferred option to renovate existing hospital sites at St Albans City, Hemel Hempstead and Watford General.

With this option, the bulk of the £350 million NHS budget would be used to renovate Watford General, with smaller improvements made at the other two hospitals.

However the NHC claims the option of building a new A&E hospital was dismissed as unaffordable without properly considering the evidence or holding a full public consultation.

They claim that the current plan involves renewing less than half of the buildings and infrastructure at Watford, with very little investment at St Albans and Hemel Hempstead "reduced to a single block for medical support".

A High Court judge approved the NHC's application, meaning the case can now go forward for a full hearing.

Edie Glatter, of the NHC, said: "We effectively have a once-and-for-all opportunity to secure the new state-of-the-art accessible hospital that we so desperately need.

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"The alternative would mean that we will leave a legacy of poor hospital healthcare facilities for years to come.

"The decision to keep the dysfunctional Watford hospital estate will not be reversed in the foreseeable future if the best part of £400 million is spent on it this time round. Please make a donation and support our legal challenge."

The campaigners are looking to raise £20,000 to fund their legal challenge, and have currently raised more than £8,500.

Andy Love, who campaigns independently for a new hospital, said: "As a resident of St Albans and a fellow campaigner for a new and more central hospital, I ask Herts Ad readers to seriously consider donating to the NHC crowdfunding page.

"Had a new build hospital been included in the shortlist of options that the trust selected for further consideration, perhaps all of the benefits of building a new A&E hospital from scratch on a clear site might have been made public and attracted significant support from residents, local politicians and the NHS regulators.

"We need the courts to review the consultation processes that were taken to confirm whether they were fair and comprehensive."

Campaigners have long argued that the Watford General Hospital site in Vicarage Road does not meet the needs of a growing population. Andy added: "It is in the interests of St Albans residents to have the best A&E hospital and facilities on their doorstep, rather than having to face an often arduous journey to west Watford.

"Redevelopment of Watford General is potentially risky given the age of the Vicarage Road site, and there could also be much disruption while the redevelopment work is undertaken as the hospital will presumably remain fully operational.

"Support and donations for this legal challenge will send a strong message to the local health authorities and NHS regulators that St Albans and west Herts residents will not accept second best when it comes to the transformation needed of their dilapidated hospitals."

Campaigners pointed to other hospital redevelopment schemes elsewhere, including Princess Alexandra in Harlow and St Helier Hospital in Surrey, where similar funding has been promised and local trusts and CCGs are including options for new hospitals in public consultation processes.

A Herts Valleys CCG spokesperson said: "We are aware that a judge has granted permission for the judicial review, relating to an aspect of the process of decision-making on hospital redevelopment, to go ahead.

"This is a stage that all claims for judicial review need to go through before a hearing."

To donate to the campaign go to https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/new-hospital-campaign. You can also donate directly to the dedicated bank account at DHAG - New Hospital Campaign, sort code 30-80-49, account number 34945668.