West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust defends feasibility study as campaigners brand it ‘superficial’

A feasibility study commissioned by West Herts Hospital Trust has been slammed by campaigners

A feasibility study commissioned by West Herts Hospital Trust has been slammed by campaigners - Credit: Archant

Campaigners for a new hospital central to St Albans, Watford and Dacorum have slammed a site feasibility study as “limited and inadequate”.

The study was submitted to West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) on August 21, suggesting potential sites for a new hospital – including Kings Langley, eastern Hemel Hempstead, Chiswell Green, Radlett Airfield and Watford Riverwell.

However members of the New Hospital Campaign (NHC), believe the study was a box-ticking exercise designed to favour the NHS trust’s previously stated preferred option to renovate the existing hospital site at Watford General, instead of building a new hospital.

A statement from campaigners said: “This was a fundamentally misconceived study from the start. As we have mentioned to the trust, there should have been a full review of all available sites – not a small selection hand-picked by the trust.

“The four new sites [not including Watford General or Watford Riverwell] were derived from a study of 17 sites conducted nearly five years ago, and commissioned by the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group when there was briefly an open mind on the issue of location.

“The present superficial and limited approach was irresponsible and indicates that this exercise was simply designed to support the trust’s fixation with hanging on to their dysfunctional and inaccessible site at west Watford.”

The group has long argued that the Watford General site in Vicarage Road is unfit for purpose and poorly located, and that centring services there would disadvantage patients in other areas.

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Deputy chief executive of WHHT, Helen Brown, told the Herts Ad: “Independent experts have been engaged to carry out feasibility studies on numerous site options over several years and their findings are in the public domain.

“We are satisfied that all sites that merited a review were considered and we are also content that the level of research was appropriate for this stage of the process. Options that are shortlisted will be reviewed in more depth later this year.

“The age and condition of our estate is, overall, very poor and this has a significant impact on our ability to deliver high quality care to patients. This is why we must consider options that deliver improvements to patients quickly and mitigate the risk of a serious infrastructure failure.

“We hope that all campaigners and interested parties, whatever their views are, understand how important and urgent it is to improve our facilities in the shortest time possible. With every passing cold and wet winter and hot summer, our estate becomes even more challenging to maintain and less likely to support a positive experience for our patients and staff.”

The sites designated by the trust for consideration in the feasibility study are land east of A41, WD4 8EE – a greenfield site, not owned by the trust –? the eastern side of Hemel Hempstead South/Gorhambury Estate, also a greenfield site.

Also under consideration is land off Junction 21, Chiswell Green, the former Radlett Airfield and Watford Riverwell and the existing Watford General Hospital – which are both owned by the trust.

Helen Brown continued: “Our current buildings make it difficult to provide ‘the very best care for every patient every day’, our clinical teams are supporting the detailed planning required to plan new facilities and are working hard to make the most of all the opportunities this will give us to improve care.

“After many years of planning the trust is very keen to bring about positive change and transform its buildings. We believe that this current funding opportunity gives us a real chance to secure much-needed and long-awaited investment.

“We are prepared to pull out all the stops to make the most of this once in a generation opportunity for our patients and for our staff.

“While the timeline is challenging, there has been a great deal of serious thought and planning over a long time now on new buildings and new models of care and the overwhelming view from the staff is that they want to see this talk become a reality. The thought of any kind of a delay is much more of a concern than having to work hard and at pace for the benefit of all the communities we serve.”

To see the report, go to westhertshospitals.nhs.uk/newsandmedia/mediareleases/2020/August/sitefeasibilitystudy.asp.