Redevelopment plans for Watford General Hospital (WGH), Hemel Hempstead Hospital and St Albans City Hospital were backed by a county council watchdog group at a scrutiny meeting earlier this month.
The council’s Health Scrutiny Committee had established a ‘topic group’ to consider West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust’s (WHHT) rationale for retaining the three hospitals and ruling out a single site option.
The group also considered – and supported – WHHT’s approach to engagement with the council and the public on its plans.
WHHT’s plans are to completely redevelop the Watford General Hospital site with up to 90 per cent new buildings on land next to the current hospital.
Significant improvements are also planned for its hospitals in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans, with a completion date of 2025 or soon after.
The topic group supported the plans – bar one councillor who voted against two of the three motions passed.
Commenting on the outcome of the meeting, The New Hospital Campaign (NHC), which claims to represent many Hemel Hempstead residents and is fighting for a new A+E hospital on a central site in west Hertfordshire, has branded the scrutiny meeting a “farce”.
A spokesperson for the group called the meeting “a farce and grotesquely unbalanced”, adding that it reached “truly bizarre conclusions, including that the Trust’s plans did not amount to ‘substantial development of service requiring formal consultation with the Committee’, even though it involved the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds with implications over many decades to come”.
Hertfordshire County Council responded, saying: “Hertfordshire County Council is extremely proud of its scrutiny committees and believe it forms an essential part in the democratic overseeing of decision making, ensuring that the improvement and positive impact on lives of Hertfordshire residents is put front and centre.”
Dr Mike van der Watt, WHHT’s chief medical officer, addedd: “We welcomed the opportunity for two of our most senior and well-respected consultants to describe the benefits our proposals will deliver to patients. Creating a unique role for each site and making sure it has the right staff and facilities to provide an excellent standard of care is the backbone of our plans. Watford will be the base for our emergency and specialist services, including complex surgery, whilst St Albans will focus on planned surgery and cancer and Hemel Hempstead will be established as a centre for consultant-led planned medical care. All sites will have upgraded diagnostics.”
He added: “I am excited by our ideas which are about so much more than buildings and beds. The quality and safety of our services and the clinical outcomes we want for our patients have been our guiding force.”
The trust is issuing a survey to find out what people think of its ideas and has offered to make presentations to local community groups.
There is also a series of online events. Further information is on the trust’s website westhertshospitals.nhs.uk/about/redevelopment/yourcareyourviews.asp
To watch a full video of the WHHT meeting, go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FMCZ0JlBxEo&feature=youtu.be
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