Health bosses are to offer a fourth option on the future for hospital services in West Herts, following discussions with national NHS leaders.
West Herts Hospitals Trust and Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) are currently planning to invest in a major renovation at Watford General Hospital - amid some controversy as health campaigners would be prefer a brand new hospital to be built on green belt land instead.
Now the hospital has agreed to consider the suitability of another option, which includes building a new planned care centre.
In a joint statement, the trust, which runs Hemel, Watford and St Albans hospitals, and the CCG, which oversees health locally, said: “The preferred option in the July submission was to maximise investment on the emergency and specialist site at Watford, and also to provide significant investment to upgrade both St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals.
“The submission was drawn up, amongst other factors, on the basis of clear financial guidance given to us by our regulators earlier this year.”
They added: “The trust and CCG discussed this and the trust has been working on producing an outline - in the full knowledge that any provisional suggestions that might be taken forward, would be subject to an entirely new process of engagement and decision-making.
“If we are advised that more capital is available, the CCG and trust will respond appropriately to any further information or guidance and in doing so we would launch a further process to consider options. If that doesn’t transpire, then the current Strategic Outline Case (SOC) will continue to stand and we will continue to press for investment in the plans we have outlined in that document.”
Health campaigners said this was only a small step towards what was really needed - a brand new hospital that would be equidistant from all three of the current sites.
Ron Glatter, of the New Hospital Campaign, said: “It’s encouraging that the national NHS regulators have asked the trust to look at another option rather than the hopeless patch-up proposal they are putting forward.
“However the trust’s idea of still ‘maximising investment on the Watford site’ should be a non-starter for this exercise. They are only thinking of a new centre for planned care, not for emergency and specialist services.
“Too many of the buildings on the Vicarage Road site are beyond renovation. The thorough 35-page analysis by our highly experienced and qualified construction advisor Robert Scott showed clearly that this would overall be a far less affordable option, giving much poorer cost-benefit, than a new A&E hospital on a clear central site.
“It would also be more risky, take much longer to complete and give a poorer result at the end. And a new hospital would be a lot easier to get to for most West Herts residents. In fact it’s a no-brainer, and there is a huge puzzle over this fixation with the existing A&E site.
“A new hospital might be single site or with planned care on one of the existing sites. Whichever of these is chosen, this must be the way to go for us and for future generations. Unless these options are fully and fairly considered, which has not yet happened, the decision-making process can have no credibility.”