Hospital bosses look to reduce costs of plans to redevelop health services in West Herts
Estimates for Watford General redevelopment are over £540m
Hospital bosses are looking to reduce the costs of their plans to redevelop health services in West Herts – after estimates suggested they would cost too much.
Bosses from West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust have already submitted an outline planning application to redevelop Watford General, off Vicarage Road – including three landmark blocks of up to 18-storeys.
But it has now emerged that the cost of that planned development at Watford would be more than £540million, which was the maximum figure indicated by national health chiefs, last year.
Part of the increase in costs is said to reflect the increasing importance of net zero carbon and the integration of the latest digital technology – as well as changes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
And now hospital chiefs have acknowledged that they are having to look for “efficiencies” in order to reduce costs.
That could include decreasing the footprint or the height of the planned new buildings.
“We take the responsibility of spending public money very seriously and so, as we press on with our plans, we will also look for efficiencies,” said the Trust’s deputy chief executive Helen Brown.
“We are working hard to strike the balance between having fabulous new and refurbished buildings whilst pursuing good value.
“This is a once in a generation opportunity to transform the way we provide care and our hospital sites and so we are driven to make sure that we ‘right size’ our buildings and leave ourselves room to grow.”
It was at a recent ‘Your Care, Your Views’ public engagement event that Ms Brown publicly acknowledged that the cost of existing plans to redevelop the Watford site could be in excess of £540m.
“It is clear that a new build option for emergency care on the Watford site will be more expensive than the £540m set out,” she said.
“We have done a first-run of costs – but they are by no means finalised and we are still working through a lot of detail at the moment.”
Ms Brown said the Trust – under continuous challenge from itself, NHS England and the new hospital programme – was focussed on getting the right solution in terms of services, space and cost.
But – as one 48 bids nationally for redevelopment by 2030 – she said they would have to demonstrate that the bid was affordable locally and for the NHS more broadly.
As part of the process, she said she expected the option to be put forward by the Trust to be a new build emergency care facility.
But she said there would be other options in the appraisal that were “not quite a full new build but cost a bit less”.
And she said there would then be a discussion with the new hospital programme and the regulator to determine the right solution.
“… certainly for emergency care we do think the benefits of new build are really really significant,” she said.
“We will continue to advocate for that to get the best solution that we can.”
In October 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged £400m for the redevelopment of hospital services in West Herts.
In June 2020 the Department of Health and Social Care told the Trust it would consider a bid for up to £540m for the Watford site – including the replacement of the Princess Michael of Kent Building.
And in addition they indicated up to £50m could be available to invest at Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City hospitals.