Prime Minister promises meeting to ‘unblock’ progress on new hospital for West Hertfordshire

Delays have prompted politicians on both sides of the debate to call for action to speed up the process

Friday, 26th November 2021, 9:15 am

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he’ll arrange a meeting with the Secretary of State to “unblock” progress on a new hospital for West Hertfordshire “one way or another”, after the matter was raised in Parliament.

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) is currently developing its business case on a £590m rebuild of Watford General Hospital, which had been hoped to be completed by 2025.

The Trust is still outlining proposals to NHS England and central government which will establish exactly how much funding is granted to the project.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said he’ll arrange a meeting with the Secretary of State to “unblock” progress on a new hospital for West Hertfordshire

The preferred option is for an almost complete rebuild of Watford General on land next to the current hospital, with refurbishment work to Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City Hospitals.

Hemel Hempstead will have a focus on planned medical care and long term conditions, with St Albans providing planned surgery and cancer care.

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Those delays have prompted politicians on both sides of the debate to call for action to speed up the process.

Earlier this month, local leaders including the Mayor of Watford Peter Taylor and Leader of St Albans District Council Chris White joined MPs Daisy Cooper (St Albans) and Dean Russell (Watford) in signing a letter asking for an update on when funding would be allocated to the local trust.

Now the Prime Minister has said he’ll ask the Secretary of State to meet those concerned.

Boris Johnson’s comments come after the matter was raised during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday (November 24).

Sir Mike Penning, the MP for Hemel Hempstead, asked for government intervention into the process, and called for a hospital in a location that would better serve Hemel Hempstead.

Mr Penning, who has backed a new hospital on a green field site, claimed that the “local management of our trust has blocked it” and instead opted for a refurbishment of Watford General Hospital, to the detriment of his constituents.

He said: “Will you meet me and some of my constituents to unblock this and tell the NHS they need to build a new hospital for Hemel Hempstead?”

In response, the Prime Minister said he would be “very happy” to secure a meeting with Sajid Javid, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, and said: “I’m sure we’ll be able to unblock things one way or another.”

Following the question in Parliament, the Mayor of Watford, who backs the Trust’s plans for Watford General, said the government needed “to get on with” providing funding for the work.

Mr Taylor said: “For years, independent experts have looked into this and produced many reports. Every time they have concluded that the best way to improve facilities for all of us is to invest in new buildings at Watford General.

“The Trust have worked on a detailed case but now we need the government to get on with delivering the funding needed to make this a reality.

“The Prime Minister can unblock this by delivering the investment Watford General needs, now.”

West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust has previously said it is aiming to complete its Outline Business Case in summer 2022 and, following the start of work in 2024, is hopeful of new hospital facilities being open in 2027.

Helen Brown, deputy chief executive of the WHHT, said: “We share Sir Mike’s desire to see new hospital facilities for our patients and staff as soon as possible.

“However, our strongly held view is that the best route to achieving this is major redevelopment at Watford General Hospital and improvements to our hospitals in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.

"We are excited about our plans which are fully backed by our clinical staff.”