Campaigners call for specialist cancer services and acute hospital for west Hertfordshire to be on new site

The West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust welcomes the possibility that Mount Vernon cancer services could move to the Watford General Hospital site

Friday, 12th March 2021, 5:08 pm
Updated Friday, 12th March 2021, 5:10 pm

A campaign group is calling for a new, central site for specialist cancer services from Mount Vernon and an acute hospital for west Hertfordshire.

Campaigners from the New Hospital Campaign have raised concerns over plans to move specialist cancer services from Mount Vernon Hospital to Watford General Hospital.

The campaign group has welcomed the idea of combining the site of an acute hospital for west Hertfordshire with a new Mount Vernon, but believe it should be on a new, central site in the area.

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The group has been fighting for a new hospital in west Hertfordshire, instead of redeveloping the three hospitals managed by the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust - Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

In October, health bosses recommended new hospital facilities be built on land near an existing hospital rather than on a new site.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) wants to build new emergency facilities on land near Watford General Hospital. Improvements - including new buildings - are planned for Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City hospitals.

Mount Vernon Cancer Centre (MVCC) in Northwood is one of the country’s top cancer hubs. But years of neglect have left its buildings in a poor state and care is hampered by the need to move patients to other hospitals if their condition deteriorates.

The answer is seen by clinicians and patients as a move to share a site with an acute hospital that can step in when needed to provide intensive care and other support.

Watford General Hospital - one of the six flagship ‘new hospital’ sites under the HIP1 programme announced in 2019 - is emerging as the preferred route forward.

Health campaigners from NHC say the idea of combining the site of an acute hospital for west Hertfordshire with a new Mount Vernon would leave MVCC geographically well-placed to serve the huge region it covers, extending from Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire to North London.

However, the NHC believe that a combination of Mount Vernon with a new acute and emergency west Hertfordshire hospital on a clear central site for the area would be better than trying to refurbish and rebuild at Watford General.

A spokesperson for the NHC said: "Fears are growing that the large and widely-respected clinical team at MVCC will be split up to allow Watford to accommodate parts of Mount Vernon’s services.

"There are doubts about whether the Watford site is big enough to accommodate a relocated MVCC, and suggestions that radiotherapy and other services will be outsourced to other hospitals."

Edie Glatter of the NHC said: "The NHS needs to get a grip if cancer services for north-west London and many other parts of the south east are to be protected and enhanced.

"It is fantastic news that MVCC might move to West Hertfordshire. There are all sorts of excellent reasons why the vital and highly-rated cancer treatment services provided by Mount Vernon should be located alongside an acute and emergency hospital in the area, which has been shown to offer the best travel times for patients and carers.

"‘But the site must be the right one. Now it looks as if the NHS wants to rush ahead with refurbishment of Watford General without properly thinking through the implications for Mount Vernon’s cancer services.

"It appears possible that, if the Trust persists with its plans, some but not all Mount Vernon services may eventually be squeezed on to the Watford General site, where patients are already likely to be suffering disruption until the end of the decade as hospital building jostles with extensive commercial and residential development.

"A new acute/emergency hospital for West Herts on a clear accessible site with close connections to all Mount Vernon’s services could be a great solution for cancer services in this vast region.

"The alternative of a new West Herts site for Mount Vernon and the acute hospital needs to be explored quickly if this great opportunity is not to be missed.

" A number of key questions need to be answered by the NHS as soon as possible:

- How many Mount Vernon services will move to Watford?

- Where else will Mount Vernon’s services go if they are not at Watford?

- What effect will construction of new buildings to house Mount Vernon services at Watford have on the work of the existing hospital and on the redevelopment programme?

- When will patients at Watford be free of the noise and disruption caused by construction of not one but two major projects?"

A spokesman for the WHHT said: "We welcome the possibility that Mount Vernon cancer services could move to the Watford General Hospital site.

"We understand that proposed changes to the services currently provided at Mount Vernon likely to be subject to public consultation and that more detailed work will be needed before any move is finalised.

"Our preliminary assessment has shown that the needs of the Mount Vernon cancer services could be accommodated on the Watford General Hospital site where we are planning a major transformation.

"There are enormous clinical benefits of having this specialist, regional service on our redeveloped site and our clinical staff are very supportive of this proposal.

"Current Mount Vernon Cancer centre services would be moved to the new cancer centre which would be a regional specialist cancer centre.

"In addition, this would include some services that cannot be done at Mount Vernon at the moment because acute hospital facilities are not available on the site (for example haematological malignancy).

"The timescales are different for the Mount Vernon move and our construction, with our plans being further forward.

"However, we are confident that we can incorporate the needs of Mount Vernon when its future location and funding is finalised without causing delay or difficulty on either side."