Health bosses have been accused of ignoring pleas for a brand new hospital because it does not fit their own agenda.
MP Mike Penning and the Dacorum Hospital Action Group (DHAG) have written to Dr Nicholas Small, chairman of the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which oversees healthcare across the region.
The CCG is currently reviewing options for the future of the region’s health.
But while patients have created detailed plans for a brand new hospital, health bosses are accused of preferring to simply re-develop Watford Hospital, and ignoring what is best for patients
The letter says: “The residents of West Hertfordshire do not want their main hospital to be situated in a heavily congested urban zone, next door to a Premier League football club.
“It’s an absurd location for a principal hospital. No amount of pseudo-scientific number-crunching will change that.
“This is a golden opportunity to change direction. It is beyond belief that we might be stuck with the status quo for decades to come.”
The CCG’s review is called Your Care, Your Future.Originally health chiefs put forward three options, but patients managed to get a fourth proposal added to the agenda – a brand new custom-built hospital, built on greenbelt land, to serve all of West Hertfordshire.
The scheme would mean the Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead sites continued to function as satellites of the new site, which would be home to major functions such as A&E.
But the DHAG and Mike Penning believe that this proposal is being deliberately undermined by the review.
Their letter says: “It seems crystal clear that the aim of the whole process so far has been to come up with the answer that was first thought of, kicking alternative ideas into touch at the earliest opportunity.
“What is needed is for the CCG to take ownership and to construct a genuinely independent process, which this one patently is not.”
While patients and medical professionals have been involved in the review, the letter claims that some views are being railroaded.
It says: “Observers were aware of at least two cases where professionals attempted to browbeat members of panels who were patients.
“In one case this involved an attempt to get someone to change their ratings; in another it was simply to shout down someone with a different view.
“We should stress that this was not common but it did occur.”
Other concerns raised by the letter include the public consultation being hurriedly carried out during the school holidays, and numerous questions about the future of Hemel Hempstead Hospital site.
Dr Nicholas Small said: “As readers will expect, the DHAG have been working closely with us on the Your Care, Your Future programme over a number of months.
“We have taken very seriously our commitment to involve patient representatives in very detailed assessments and many of those people have told us they have been pleased and impressed with the sessions.
“It is really important that people understand that we are still part way through this process; no decision has been made. There is further work to do – in which patient representatives will continue to participate – and the final decision will be made by the board of Herts Valleys CCG in November.”
Click here to read more about the patients’ proposals for a brand new hospital
Click here to read more about the history Hemel Hempstead losing its A&E department