West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust to press ahead with redevelopment planning ‘at pace'

The Trust says its plans – which also include improvements at Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City hospitals – will continue full steam ahead

By Deborah Price, Local Democracy Reporting Service
Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 5:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 23rd December 2021, 5:54 pm

Hospital chiefs in west Herts have signalled that they are to press ahead ‘at pace’ with their plans to redevelop Watford General – after hearing that funding is to be made available for external advisors.

Earlier this month it emerged that West Herts Hospitals Trust didn’t have the funding to continue to pay for external advisers connected with the planning for a new hospital, such as architects and other professionals.

And they had expected to ‘stand down’ those external services from the end of this month (December).

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West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust to press ahead with redevelopment planning ‘at pace’

But now Trust bosses say they have been promised additional funds to pay for the advisors they need to help with the design and cost-planning of the hospital’s development proposals.

And as a result the Trust says its plans – which also include improvements at Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City hospitals – will continue full steam ahead.

“We are very happy to continue working at pace on this important programme after so many years of pursuing funding at every opportunity,” said WHHT deputy chief executive Helen Brown.

“It feels really good to keep the momentum going, including those aspects of our plans which require the input of external experts, such as architects and cost planners.

“We have always been quick to praise our own staff for their input and enthusiasm on our redevelopment plans, but we are equally thrilled to have such a talented and committed team of external experts working alongside us.

“For our part, we are continuing to make our hospital services slicker and quicker through introducing more ‘one stop’ models of care and providing specialist input and assessment at the earliest stage possible.

“Delivering our care differently is a key focus for us as we begin to consider how our new and remodelled facilities will support our streamlined services.”

It was back in October 2019 that Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged £400m for the Watford redevelopment.

And since then the Trust has been granted outline planning permission for a new hospital on the site of Watford General – including three landmark blocks of up to 18-storeys.

But despite the PM’s pledge, no firm funding for a new hospital has been made available by the New Hospital Programme. And the Trust has yet to have an outline business case approved.

The priority now, says the Trust, is to complete a detailed ‘cost benefit’ analysis of options for all three of the Trust’s hospitals.

And that economic information, say the Trust, will be part of the outline business case, which will also include a detailed design and implementation plan for the trust’s preferred option for each hospital.

“We are confident that the cost benefit appraisal will clearly demonstrate that replacing the majority of buildings at Watford – including the Princess Michael of Kent building – is the best option, clinically and financially,” said Ms Brown.

“We will follow the process and provide a range of costed options but we feel very strongly that keeping our main clinical block would be a very poor use of public money.

“In the case of our hospitals in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans, we will be recommending a mixture of some new build and some refurbishment of current buildings on these two sites.”

The Trust hopes to complete the outline business case next year – before submitting it to the New Hospital Programme for approval.