Crunch meeting on future of hospital for Hemel Hempstead

The future of hospital provision is being discussed by campaigners
The future of hospital provision is being discussed by campaigners

A dossier of evidence will be presented to health chiefs in advance of a crunch meeting tomorrow (Thursday).

The New Hospital Campaign, which is in favour of building a health hub on green belt land in West Herts, will present 10 files to the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG).

The CCG is responsible for the planning and commissioning of health care services locally and it has agreed, along with hospital chiefs, that redeveloping the current Watford Hospital site is the best option.

The open board meeting will be taking place at the Stanborough Centre, in St Albans Road, Watford, from 2pm.

They hold the purse strings, which campaigners hope to be able to pull in their favour.

In the dossier are five papers by a highly qualified and experienced expert in construction, Robert Scott, who has been involved in several NHS projects.

Through what the New Hospital Campaign calls “very detailed analysis” the Scott report shows that “redeveloping the Vicarage Road site would be far more expensive, costing at least £220 million extra, it would take far longer and it would be a great deal more risky, than building a new hospital on a new site.”

The West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust wants to keep the main acute hospital at the Vicarage Road site in Watford.

It’s a decision which will last for decades to come.

A covering letter, signed by the six members of the campaign’s steering group, says: “The key factors of time and money are all decisively in favour of a new hospital, and it would produce a far better environment for clinicians, other staff and patients.”

Campaigners say it is “extraordinary” that the hospital trust’s case makes hardly any mention of travel times or congestion around Vicarage Road which is “a matter of great and justified concern to very many residents of the local area”.

The group submits an analysis which it says shows that the work the trust has done on this is “seriously flawed” and that travel times to Vicarage Road from both Dacorum and St Albans in particular, by either road or public transport, are much greater than it maintains.

“It is the common experience of very many people in West Hertfordshire that accessing the hospital is generally extremely challenging and we believe the local NHS should now acknowledge that”.

The campaigners say that the HVCCG would not be fulfilling its role as system leader and commissioner if they tried to knock out the new hospital option at this stage.

“It would be quite wrong to do so. It must be kept firmly in play, since it is the only logical, viable and economic solution”.

They also argue that, as well as the site near junction 20 of the M25 which the local NHS has been looking at, it should also consider the sites currently being consulted on by the Crown Estate near Redbourn and Leverstock Green.

The group is very critical of the lack of public consultation over the distinct options.

“There should be a serious, open-minded process of public engagement regarding the main options”.

They say that a high degree of public concern was shown by the petition for a new hospital on a new, central site which the campaign sponsored on the government’s petitions website. It produced more than 10,000 signatures from across the area.

They also criticise the decision to focus on acute (emergency and specialised) provision without considering local community facilities at the same time as part of a “whole system view, as in the leading national examples”.

Doing it in that fragmented way means “there can be no guarantee that the high-level community provision which is so critical to the mantra of ‘closer to home’ will ever be achieved” they claim. They conclude that it is a “fundamentally flawed conception”.

If the HVCCG support the hospital trust’s case on Thursday it will still need to go to regional and national bodies for further consideration and finally to the Department of Health.