Health chiefs face long night of questioning

Plans to remove further services from Hemel Hempstead Hospital have been roundly rubbished by Dacorum Borough councillors.

At a meeting held at the civic centre, the leaders of Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which oversees healthcare across the county, were invited to outline their vision.

But they were met by a barrage of questions, before unimpressed councillors voted unanimously in favour of keeping a hospital presence in Dacorum.

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David Evans, the CCG’s programme director for Your Care, Your Future programme, opened the meeting by explaining how the scheme would work.

Hemel Hospital lost its A&E department and a number of other services in 2009, and the CCG’s proposals will mean that more services are cut.

Patients and MP Mike Penning have championed proposals to build a new hospital on greenbelt land, but the CCG is instead concentrating on developing Watford and St Albans hospitals.

Councillors fired a range of concerns. While the CCG has been carrying out a public consultation, Councillor Roger Taylor said that many people feel “hoodwinked” and that a decision has already been made.

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Councillor William Wyatt-Lowe challenged the CCG’s figures; he disagreed with the health bosses’ travel times, their financial estimates, and claimed that building a new hospital would offer efficiency savings.

Councillor Fiona Guest asked if Mike Penning had been asked to lobby the government for extra cash to fund a new government, but was told that he had not.

Mr Evans reassured councillors that they would be kept up to date with financial details, and said the council had been kept up to date with the changes to date.

But councillors closed the meeting with a unanimous vote supporting “maintaining a hospital presence in Dacorum.”