It was standing room only on Friday night, as campaigners unveiled plans for an all-new purpose-built hospital to serve West Herts.
The Dacorum Patients’ Group’s (DPG) proposal for a new super-hospital was presented at a public meeting at Adeyfield Community Centre, which saw more than 240 people turn out to talk about healthcare provision.
And Gordon Yearwood, a member of the DPG, has led on the outline business case for an acute, centrally-located facility which could replace Watford General Hospital as the area’s primary health hub.
Mr Yearwood, who has 15 years’ experience building hospitals across the globe, said: “Dacorum is one of the most inadequate areas in the UK in regards to bed provision and diagnostic equipment.
“Our 400 acute hospital beds and A&E department in Hemel were closed down despite our warnings of the healthcare consequences.
“Watford is now the only remaining acute hospital in West Herts – but it is in the wrong place. We need the right service in the right place at the right time.”
Although a suggested site has not been put forward, the DPG plans champion a centrally-located hospital – equidistant from Hemel, Watford and St Albans – along the major transport routes.
Mr Yearwood said: “The hospital will be open seven days a week, with a diagnostics and theatre block, plus emergency and maternity services all functioning adequately.”
Part of the plan is to have satellite ‘medical hubs’ in both Hemel and St Albans, with smaller ‘GP hubs’ in towns like Berkhamsted and Tring.
The presentation touched on the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust’s failings when it comes to bed numbers. Guidelines from the Royal College of Surgeons recommend that a hospital’s maximum bed occupancy should be 82 per cent to avoid a crises.
Mr Yearwood said: “Despite patients being turned away, GPs being encouraged not to refer patients, and many patients choosing not to return, Watford Hospital is consistently operating well into the 90s. It is dangerously overfull and unable to cope.”
The UK has three beds available per 1,000 people, compared to just over eight in Germany and just over six in France and Belgium.
But West Herts has just 1.5 beds per 1,000 people – half the already-low UK average.
In regards to diagnostic timescales, government guidelines state that no more than one per cent of patients should wait more than six weeks for a diagnostic test.
But the percentage of patients waiting longer than this in the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust is 13.45 per cent – something the DPG has branded ‘shameful’.
The DPG’s proposal is is response to the Your Care Your Future consultation being conducted by the Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, which oversees healthcare across the area.
The DPG will meet with the CCG in the coming weeks, and submit plans in due course.
Mr Yearwood said: “We need to correct past mistakes and not repeat them.”
Dacorum Borough Councillor Jan Maddern, of Nash Mills, spearheaded the previous campaign to save Hemel’s A&E department in the lead up to the closure in early 2009.
Speaking at Friday’s meeting, she said: “We have the best chance we will ever have to fight for what our hospital services are going to be.
“They have finally acknowledged that Watford is not fit for purpose.
“We can fight this in a calm but forceful manner.”
Hemel MP Mike Penning also spoke, saying: “For some of us, this is Groundhog Day. For those of us who pushed that hospital bed, it’s what we predicted.
“But the answer is to go forward. We need a plan that wins the argument, to say ‘This is what we need and please listen’.
“I hope all the political parties will come together and push this. We were right – and you need to keep the argument going if you are right.”