‘Knock it down and start again’ say campaigners

CAMPAIGNERS have called for a new hospital to be built in Hemel Hempstead as health chiefs consider options for the future of the site.

Plans for the Hillfield Road site include a rebuild, refurbishment and a ‘do minimum’ approach.

The potential for new buildings on the site has been discussed since 2009 when A&E and other services were closed and replaced by an urgent care centre.

Much of the site has been mothballed and campaigners fear unused parts of the site will be sold off to developers.

There are also concerns about the future of 20 intermediate care beds, generally used by the elderly to recover from operations.

Betty Harris, chairman of Dacorum Hospital Action Group, said: “There’s still the land at Hemel – let’s knock it down and start again.

“There’s no mention of wards for intermediate care beds – that’s the thing that’s worrying.”

A meeting of NHS Herts Primary Care Trust’s board in September will be presented with a range of options in a business case including building a new facility at a cost of £24 million and spending £11 million to consolidate services into the Verulam wing. This, the cheapest ‘do minimum’ option, also has the lowest annual costs.

The hospital will house outpatient services, including fracture clinic and sexual health clinic, day treatment centre, diagnostics and the urgent care centre.

A report to the trust board says the ‘do minimum’ option could be completed in 2013 and a new build in 2014.

Talk of rebuilding work will stir memories of the ‘surgicentre’ destined for Hemel Hempstead, which would have carried out planned operations but was dropped in 2006.

Plans to build a new hospital at Breakspear Way, which was deemed to be a better site than Hillfield Road, were dropped in 2009 because of the lack of public transport links.

Jacqui Bunce, programme director for delivering quality health care at the trust, said: “Work is well under way on producing an outline business case for the local general hospital at Hemel Hempstead, to be developed on the existing hospital site, that will be presented to the board of NHS Hertfordshire at its meeting in September.

“This includes making sure that there is local support from GPs.”

Last month transport minister and Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning stated Watford General Hospital could not cope with providing acute care to towns in west Herts and a new hospital should be built at Breakspear Way or Langleybury.

“A site near Breakspear or Langleybury would be better placed to facilitate everyone, with easy access to both the M25 and M1,” he said.

Plans for a new hospital in Hatfield were scrapped in 2006 due to cost but work on the Watford Health Campus, which foresees a massive redevelopment and a new link road, continues.