Hemel Hempstead MP seeks urgent meeting over new site options for hospital redevelopment

Sir Mike Penning seeks urgent meeting with National Audit Office

Thursday, 13th August 2020, 9:52 am
Updated Thursday, 13th August 2020, 9:54 am

The Hemel Hempstead MP seeks urgent meeting after the health chief's instruction over new site options for hospital redevelopment in west Hertfordshire.

Sir Mike Penning has written to the Comptroller and Auditor General to seek an urgent meeting over the instruction to the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust to provide three options for hospital redevelopment, all of which centre on redeveloping Watford General.

West Hertfordshire hospital bosses have been told only to focus on redevelopment plans that can be delivered by 2025, and they have been given a list of options NHS chiefs want to see on their shortlist.

Sir Mike Penning

None of those specified options include plans for a new purpose-built hospital on a new site – although the shortlist will not be limited to those specified options.

Sir Mike said: “This is a hugely complex and bureaucratic process, but the Trust have received a letter from David Williams, Second Permanent Secretary at the Department for Health and Social Care official instructing them to restrict their work to options that can be delivered by 2025.

"The Department does not believe the new site option could meet that deadline.

“This is total nonsense. It may vary with different sites, but it is pretty obvious that it can be much quicker to build on a new site.

"Redeveloping an existing site is always fraught with difficulties – just look at the old Civic Centre building in Hemel where part of the building remains after several years due to an active electricity sub-station underneath.

"In Watford’s case, they will need to keep the existing site operational.”

He added: “The Treasury have an instruction – ‘The Green Book’ – that states: 'Starting out with a narrow set of options or a pre-determined solution may miss the opportunity to explore more novel, innovative solutions that might offer better social value.'

“I would suggest that is exactly the case here.

“A new site option would be good value for money, good for the whole community and quicker to build.”

Bosses at the West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust (WHHT), which operates Hemel Hempstead, Watford General and St Albans City hospitals, have stressed that the option of a new hospital is still being considered.

And they say they will not know until the autumn - after all options have been subjected to the same ‘rigorous’ process – whether it will be on the shortlist of options, or not.

Helen Brown, deputy chief executive, said: “The hospital redevelopment is a once in a life time opportunity for the trust to deliver the best possible hospital facilities for local people and to build state-of -the-art facilities for west Hertfordshire.

"We are aware that the mention of a potential larger investment is of interest to those who want to see an all new hospital on a new site.

"This option will be part of our longlist process and will be subject to the same rigorous process and financial constraints as the other possibilities we are looking at.

“We are assessing all the options this autumn to create a shortlist, at this stage we cannot say stage if a new hospital option will be on the shortlist.

"The Department of Health and Social Care has been clear that we should not consider any options that significantly increase the timescale for delivery of the scheme beyond 2025.

“The full version of the letter is now also on our website.

"The letter from our regulators does not state that only three options will be on the shortlist.

"The letter set outs three options that they expect to see on the shortlist, which will have at least four options.

“The site review is being carried out at present and we will publish its results later this month.

"It assesses five sites, including the current Watford General site, and is being conducted by two external organisations who have proven expertise in this field.

“Once we have seen their report we will be able to comment on potential completion dates for new builds or a redevelopment option at Watford."

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: “West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust is one of the six Trusts receiving a share of £2.7 billion for hospital building projects.

“We continue to work closely with West Herts to deliver the project and no options have been discounted at this stage.”

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