Campaign group criticises West Herts Hospital Trust and Herts Valleys CCG over hospital redevelopment project
West Hertfordshire Hospital Trust manages hospitals in Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans
A hospital campaign group claims to have undertaken a thorough fact check which they say highlights omissions and incorrect statements made by both West Hertfordshire Hospital NHS Trust and Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group during the hospital redevelopment project.
The trust and CCG are currently spending £8m developing the outline business case, due to be delivered to the Department of Health and Treasury next year.
West Hertfordshire Hospital Trust manages hospitals in Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans, and in October, plans were agreed to transform the hospital sites, with a complete transformation of the Watford General site and considerable improvements – including new buildings – at Hemel Hempstead Hospital and St Albans City Hospital. Read full story hereObservers at Herts Valley Hospital (HVH) - local hospital campaign group - reviewed the timeline of official deliberations, public correspondence with Herts County Council Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, and statements made to “Health in Dacorum” and concluded that there was no evidence to demonstrate that in arriving at the shortlist, proper consideration had been given to the best use of public funds.
A spokesperson on behalf of the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust and Herts Valleys CCG said that their intention is for new buildings to be open by 2025, which is why they have chosen a three site configuration.
A spokesperson for Herts Valley Hospital said: "The “fact check” revealed that information was provided by the trust to the boards of the CCG, integrated care system and council health scrutiny committees which would lead officials to conclude that the shortlist had evaluated and compared the cost of potential schemes across the long list of sites, when in fact no financial assessment and comparison had been made.
"Even after HVH volunteers highlighted these issues to senior execs at the CCG and trust, and at board meetings, the CCG and trust approved the shortlist on the 1st of October at a joint board meeting.
"After HVH escalated the matter to the County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny committee (who have the statutory power to refer the decision to the health secretary), the trust, CCG and Integrated care system provided a misleading response, stating that: 'The report concluded that the sites which have the lowest risk in terms of planning, deliverability and cost are the existing site and Riverwell.' However the report did not include an evaluation of costs."
Referring to the as-yet-unpublished response to the HCC health scrutiny committee, Steve Day of HVH said: “The trusts development director admitted on a public stakeholder call on 17th of November that they won’t know until Jan/Feb 2020 how much the schemes in Watford will cost.
"This is a main hospital for 600,000 people, so HVH has for the last 2 years engaged and challenged in a constructive, collaborative manner, and has brought to the table an alternative site in between St Albans, Watford and Hemel Hempstead that can meet the needs of all districts.
"HVH are concerned not only that the trust has discounted the new sites without any financial comparison of the different sites, but the trust has stated to the HCC health scrutiny committee that the site survey report DID take into account costs.
"We believe that Herts County Council and the Dept. of Health and Social Care should not support a scheme that does not make best use of public money.”
HVH will be following up the matter with the HCC health scrutiny committee who meet next on December 18.
The project group will urge the committee to refer the matter to the Health Secretary and independent reconfiguration panel, who have the power to quickly overturn the decision so as to not jeopardise the quick delivery of the programme.
HVH are continuing to urge the CCG and trust to put the clear sites back on the shortlist to enable a thorough evaluation of all of the pros and cons, and to avoid the outline business case being thrown out by HM Treasury as they say it does not meet one of the 5 key criteria – best use of public funds.
A spokesperson on behalf of the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust and Herts Valleys CCG said: "We have a once in a generation opportunity to transform our hospital buildings and use the best design and latest technology to deliver great care.
"Our intention is for new buildings to be open by 2025, or soon after, which is why our chosen option focuses on our current three site configuration.
"Using public money wisely is also very important and our outline figures, which are publicly available, point to a new hospital building on the Watford site and improvements at Hemel Hempstead and St Albans as being the best use of the investment on offer.
"As the programme moves forward, more detailed costings will be developed and shared with the public.
"We continue to follow government guidelines on our process and to work closely with regulators and the county council’s health scrutiny committee.
"Our preferred way forward provides a great deal for local people to be excited about.
"The planned transformation of the Watford site includes a new hospital building that will replace nearly all the clinical facilities on the site at present – excluding the current acute admissions unit.
"Most clinical services will be in the brand new hospital and the majority of inpatient accommodation would be single occupancy rooms.
"The new hospital building will sit within a major regeneration project – Watford Riverwell – which will be landscaped and will offer green spaces and shops. There will also be a new multi-storey car park.
"At Hemel Hempstead there are plans to provide a new urgent treatment and diagnostics centre and to further develop the range of medical care such as specialist diabetes and dermatology, which will move to this site.
"Hemel Hempstead Hospital will continue to provide diagnostic and outpatient services, with a focus on medical specialties and long term conditions.
"St Albans City Hospital has been designated as the trust’s ‘Covid-free’ site and so its ability to continue to provide planned surgery is very important.
"This will be further enhanced by plans to overhaul its theatres, create a rapid access cancer diagnostic centre and expand the range of diagnostics available by providing MRI and CT scanners. This will increase the number of ‘one stop shop’ clinics and speed up diagnosis.
"Whilst we acknowledge that some people want to see a new hospital on a new site, we are driven by the need to make major improvements within the next five years.
"Now that we have a preferred way forward, our time and energies are focused on making this a reality.”