Watford General Hospital is set to receive nearly £590million in investment to develop the site after a decision was made by local NHS leaders earlier today to focus on redeveloping three existing hospital sites.
The decision was made by the boards of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) and Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG), who gave their unanimous support for retaining and redeveloping the trust’s sites in Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.
This decision was made after leaders focused on the issue of ‘deliverability’ and concluded that redevelopment of an existing site was more feasible than proposals to build a new site on green belt land.
The plans will be subject to review by the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS regulators and the Treasury as part of the business case process.
The estimated cost of the preferred option is approximately £590m.
The majority of the funding would be spent at Watford General Hospital which sees a far higher number of patients and has more buildings in poor condition.
Around £50m of the £590m would be invested at the other two hospitals.
If the funding is approved, the plans at Watford include a large new clinical block to replace nearly all the clinical facilities on the site at present – excluding the current acute admissions unit.
Most clinical services would be accommodated within brand new hospital facilities and the majority of inpatient accommodation would be single occupancy rooms.
There are plans to provide a new purpose-built urgent treatment and diagnostics centre at Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City Hospital will be designated as the trust’s ‘COVID-free’ site to continue to provide planned surgeries.
The boards now need to hear further from regulators and the Government to confirm whether this option could be funded; any proposed option needs to be affordable on a national level, following the outcome of the government’s spending review.
The trust must demonstrate that the preferred option delivers the best overall value for money and meets the government’s requirements to secure this funding.
WHHT chief executive Christine Allen said: “This is an important day and a big step forward on our journey to better buildings and facilities. Our boards have now set us the challenge to secure the funding and deliver fantastic new facilities by 2025, or very soon after.
“This milestone is, I believe, a positive development for all our patients. However, I acknowledge that the continued concentration of emergency and specialist services at Watford will disappoint some residents of west Hertfordshire.
“Having carefully reviewed the findings of the site feasibility study, listened to the representations today and read the written submissions from those who don’t agree with our plans, as well as taking note of letters and emails on this topic for some time, we do understand the strength of feeling on this issue and the appeal of a completely new hospital on a completely new site.
“At the same time, we also have a responsibility to deliver significantly improved facilities as soon as possible. We approved a shortlist without a greenfield option because we believed that the risk of the timely delivery of this option was too high.
“All the new sites reviewed had pros and cons but we all felt – and this was underlined powerfully for us today by our clinical leaders – that we must not pass up this significant opportunity to enhance all of our hospitals and make a massive positive impact to the experience of our patients and staff.”