Redevelopment plans for West Hertfordshire hospitals criticised by Sir Mike Penning and campaign group over “flawed and rushed decisions”

MP for Hemel Hempstead has called on the Trust to honour the promised ‘fresh eyes’ approach to the hospital redevelopment scheme.

Monday, 30th May 2022, 6:04 pm
Updated Tuesday, 31st May 2022, 9:12 am

The MP for Hemel Hempstead and a campaign group are asking for a ‘fresh eyes’ approach from the West Hertfordshire Teaching NHS Trust (WHTNT) to the redevelopment proposals for hospital sites in Hertfordshire.

Sir Mike Penning and the New Hospital Campaign are pushing for a new greenfield site to be built.

In an open letter to the Trust, Sir Mike said that “the project is being delayed directly as a result of the fixation on the Watford site”.

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MP has called on the Trust to honour the promised ‘fresh eyes’ approach.

But this is a claim that WHHNT disagrees with, saying its only focus is on “safety”.

Chairman for WHHNT, Phil Townsend said: “Our intention is to be firmly on the path to major improvements before safety is compromised. We did not promise to change our minds – we pledged to make an important decision in light of the

current context.”

The New Hospital Campaign, which has campaigned for a new hospital to be built instead of redeveloping existing sites, says the Trust has failed ‘dismally’ to give residents enough information and time to look at what is being proposed.

Philip Aylett, coordinator for the campaign said: "The reality is that the public has been given just two weeks to comment on 130 pages of very technical and detailed Board papers.

“Proper consultation would mean giving enough information to ensure that people can give informed responses and allowing a proportionate amount of time for responses.”

Helen Brown, Deputy Chief Executive at West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust explained that the board ruled out the option of a new hospital on an alternative new site in 2020.

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She said that before proceeding, the Trust wanted the board to have the opportunity to review that decision in the light of matters that have arisen since it was made two years ago.

Ms Brown said: “There was an opportunity for relevant stakeholders and the public to give feedback on the board papers via representations which have been shared with the board and published on our website and a feedback form which has been summarised in the board papers.”

She added: “The primary purpose of the papers for the 31 May board meeting is to provide the information needed by the board to review its shortlisting decision from October 2020 in the light of subsequent developments.”

“This will be followed by board decisions on preferred options – unless of course there is a change to the position regarding the shortlist.”

Sir Mike said in his letter: “This is ridiculous, the Trust is about to experience a high turnover of senior staff at the highest level with the CEO, Deputy CEO and Director of Acute Redevelopment all about to leave their posts. Where is the ‘fresh eyes’ approach promised back in March?”

He added: “The Trust has received excellent submissions from campaigners who believe a greenfield site is the best solution, but they are being ignored.

“The Trust’s flawed and rushed decisions must be challenged.”

Phil Townsend said that he acknowledged that there is some opposition to the proposals but wanted to highlight the strong support the Trust has from senior clinicians.

He said: “Whilst residents may agree or disagree on the best solution, the decision rests with the Board, which is ultimately accountable for the quality and safety of the care provided by West Herts Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust.

“Furthermore, we stand by the information on which past decisions were based and on which recommendations in the current board papers are made.”

The board will meet on Tuesday (May 31).