Hemel Hempstead MP tells Parliament: Our community have “no confidence” in local health bosses

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One thing unites people in West Hertfordshire, Parliament has been told – they all have “no confidence” in local health bosses.

That was what Parliament heard last Wednesday (March 13) when Hemel MP Sir Mike Penning led a debate in Parliament on the hospital trust and clinical commissioning group (CCG).

Sir Mike said he had applied for the debate after being contacted by local residents who feel their views are still being ignored by local health managers.

He told the House of Commons: “The community is united in having no confidence in the management of the clinical commissioning group or the West Hertfordshire Hospital NHS Trust.

“We all know that it is pure common sense to take the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of land becoming available between Leverstock Green and the M1 to build a new hospital on a level greenfield site.

“It could have room for expansion and plenty of room for parking. It would be easily accessible to all three local towns, Hemel Hempstead, St Albans and Watford, as well as provide an emergency back-up for any incident on the M1, M25, local airports and north west London.”

Sir Mike dismissed claims by the trust that building a new hospital was financially unviable, calling the estimated cost of £750million “a fiction”.

And he singled out long-standing health campaigners for their work, adding: “The new-build option is supported by all groups of the community, all political parties and hospital campaigners – most notably the New Hospital Campaign ably led by Betty Harris and Ron and Edie Glatter.

“However, the trust are refusing to include the new build option in their Strategic Outline Case (SOC).”

In a joint statement, hospital and CCG bosses said they too want to invest money in local healthcare – but proposals for a new hospital do not meet government regulations.

They said: “Herts Valleys CCG and West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust are absolutely focused on securing much-needed investment in hospital buildings in west Herts. Our regulators have given us the strongest indication yet that we are likely to succeed if we put in a bid which is in line with the trust’s turnover of circa £350m. This is really good news.

“As confirmed to us and to Sir Mike Penning, this funding threshold is set by the regulators. This figure rules out the option of a new, single site planned and emergency care hospital.

“Trust staff, working with a group of external and independent experts, have produced a range of options which would make the best use of these funds. The costings for these options are derived from following a strictly defined methodology, governed by the Treasury. It is clear from this detailed work that a new, single site planned and emergency hospital would vastly exceed the threshold we have been set.

“However, all the current options do include a significant degree of new build and major refurbishment, which will replace or transform some of the existing buildings.”

They added: “Whilst we understand that support for a completely new hospital on a new site remains strong, we cannot use valuable NHS resource to continue to pursue a proposal that does not meet regulatory and government requirements.

“It has been made very clear to us that capital for hospital redevelopment is very limited and in great demand from hospitals across the country.

“The decision on how to divide this money will be made as part of this autumn’s comprehensive spending review. These reviews usually run every five years. We cannot and will not run the risk of losing our chance to secure funds by submitting a proposal that costs at least twice as much as the sum we are told is available.

“Four options – which all have Watford as the base for emergency services – have been evaluated by a 32-person panel; including local people; leading clinicians; and other key stakeholders. Only one person from this group expressed the view that we should pursue the new, single site planned and emergency hospital option. The other members accepted and evaluated the agreed shortlist.

“The panel’s evaluation scores and the views expressed at the public meeting, together with financial and technical analysis, will be considered by the CCG and trust boards when they decide on the preferred option to put forward for funding.

“We appreciate that Sir Mike Penning wants to secure the best result for his constituents. We also have their interests at heart, but have to work across a wider area and provide the best outcome possible within the funds available for all our patients.

“The latest inspection results and staff survey results for both organisations show an overall improvement. Whilst the trust has an overall Care Quality Commission (CQC) rating of ‘requires improvement’, the individual scores show a dramatic improvement; there are 45 ‘good’ ratings and just three ‘inadequate’ ratings. This is a vast leap from 2015 when there were five times more ‘inadequate’ ratings (15) and just 20 ‘good’ ratings. Eight out of nine key service areas at Watford General Hospital – where the vast majority of the trust’s patients are treated – are rated ‘good’.

“In terms of leadership, both organisations have been inspected. The CQC carried out an in-depth inspection of the trust under its ‘well led’ framework and rated it as ‘good’ and NHS England conducted an improvement and assessment framework (IAF) of the CCG and also awarded a ‘good’ rating.”

It also said: “Whilst these results are encouraging, we recognise that there are always more improvements to be made and we continue to push ourselves to provide the best care for our communities.

“Our boards repeat their commitment to develop a strong proposal for funding which brings real benefits for local people in west Hertfordshire.”