Hospital chiefs ‘don’t know where to turn’

CAMPAIGNERS have accused health chiefs of ‘mishandling’ Hemel Hempstead Hospital as it emerges a decision on the future of the site has been put back for a second time.

A decision over whether to refurb or rebuild the hospital was expected last September, but was put back first to November and now to late spring.

Herts Primary Care Trust (PCT) has been discussing what to do with the site since 2009 after A&E was shut and a steering group has now been tasked with coming up with a firm plan by May.

Meanwhile, campaigners are highlighting new research they say vindicates their long-held opposition to the merging of hospital services between Hemel Hempstead and Watford.

The study by the Centre For Market and Public Organisation into acute hospital mergers, including the creation of West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust in 2000, says ‘we find little evidence that performance improves due to merger’ and ‘there is no indication of an increase in clinical quality’.

In a statement Dacorum Hospital Action Group said: “In the light of this report indicating the folly of the merger approach the situation should be urgently reviewed and services returned to Hemel Hempstead.”

Concerning the delay chairman Betty Harris, pictured, said: “It’s all been mishandled since 2009. I don’t think they know what they’re doing. I don’t think they know where to turn.”

The new facility – a fraction of the size of the original hospital – will include outpatient services and the urgent care centre but. controversially. no rehabilitation beds for those recovering from operations.

Alan Pond, director of finance and commercial development at the PCT , said: “For the sake of a few months we want to make a decision that we don’t live to regret.”

Jan Filochowski, chief executive at the hospital trust, said: “The trust has dramatically improved its performance since the centralisation of acute services at Watford, the development of a local general hospital at Hemel Hempstead and an elective care centre at St Albans City Hospital.”

He said the trust was deficit free, waiting times had been cut and death rates had dropped by ‘about a third’.

“Research from the University of Bristol relates to mergers of organisations and not to the centralisation of clinical services,” he said.