Outline plans for new hospital facilities in west Hertfordshire are approved

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The West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust manages hospitals in Watford, Hemel Hempstead and St Albans

Outline plans for new hospital facilities in Watford were unanimously approved by Watford Borough Council's development management committee on Tuesday, July 27.

The show of support is a milestone for West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, which is one of eight ‘front runners’ in the Government s New Hospital Programme, which has committed to build 40 new hospitals by 2030.

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The permission was based on plans for new buildings for emergency and critical care, inpatient wards, operating theatres, women's and children's services and a new energy centre on land next to the current Watford General Hospital.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS TrustWest Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust
West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust

The application also included demolition of existing hospital buildings and significant landscape improvements.

The designs put forward by the architects BDP make the site far easier for pedestrians and wheelchair users.

The new multi-storey car park, due to open in spring 2022, will enable patients, visitors and staff to access the hospital without negotiating the steep slope.

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The outline planning application sets the maximum scope for the new buildings. The exact heights might be slightly less.

The permission allows for three new clinical buildings near Thomas Sawyer Way where the site is lower, meaning that their position limits the above ground impact.

Detailed designs will be completed once the government's New Hospital Programme has concluded work on standardising layouts of clinical space, the recommended ratio of single rooms and construction methods.

Commenting on the project, Paul Johnson, lead architect from BDP, said: "The gradient of the site has allowed us to consider tall buildings, which are excellent for keeping clinical services close together.

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"The building will offer lots of natural light and views to the River Colne and North London beyond.

"We know it will be a functional hospital and we are confident that our design will create spaces to look over to, and access, the Colne Valley as well as provide tucked away garden areas where staff, patients and visitors can spend a few quiet moments."

He added: "We have listened very closely to clinicians and have developed our plans firmly in line with theirs so that we can deliver a visionary building which is clinically efficient; supporting the care they provide to patients and providing an outstanding healing environment.”

Addressing councillors, Duane Passman, the trust's acute redevelopment programme director, said: "The Watford General Hospital redevelopment is not a like for like replacement, it will embrace the opportunities afforded by new medical and digital technologies, emerging models of care and also the learning from the Covid 19 pandemic."

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Following the granting of permission, which stipulates that the trust must develop a green travel plan and provide funding to support improvements to public transport and access to the site, he said: “We are delighted to have moved another step closer to providing better hospital buildings for our patients across west Herts.

"I am also thrilled for our staff, many of whom have worked for far too long in substandard environments.

"We still have a lot of work ahead of us to develop our outline business case and secure the level of funding needed, but the support of the local authority is a massive boost.

"I would like to thank clinical colleagues for their enthusiasm during challenging times for working so closely with the architects to ensure that their plans fit with the models of care we aspire to for our patients."

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The next milestone will be the trust board’s approval of a final preferred option from its outline business case which will be early next year.

This will then be formally submitted to regulators for their approval and to agree the amount of investment.

The trust’s leadership team is continuing to work closely with the New Hospital Programme to ensure that its designs reflect the latest thinking around clinical layouts, digital integration, net zero carbon and standardised construction methods.