Councillors told that £400million is not enough for new hospital in West Hertfordshire - and repaying the money will cost local health services millions every year

The £400million promised for hospital services in West Hertfordshire by Prime Minister Boris Johnson would still not be enough to build  a new hospital, county councillors have been told.

Friday, 18th October 2019, 4:54 pm

Earlier this month it was confirmed the money would be available to West Hertfordshire to develop hospital services. That commitment was echoed just days later, when the Prime Minister Boris Johnson toured existing facilities at Watford General Hospital.

Health bosses had already submitted a £350million bid, and that would retain Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, with the bulk of the investment focused on Watford General.

But on Wednesday (October 16) health chiefs told county councillors that this promise of an additional £50million was still not enough to consider building a new hospital.

They told members of the council's health scrutiny committee that the promised £400million was NOT in addition to funds that health commissioners had applied for, as some people had believed.

And it was made clear that this funding would be a loan, rather than a grant - meaning health chiefs would have to pay backs millions of pounds every year.

Herts Valleys chief executive Kathryn Magson said: "It's £400million- it's not in addition. Ultimately £400million doesn't give us the ability to build a new hospital."

Cllr Fiona Guest - who is also a member of Dacorum Council - asked how the Princess Alexandra Hospital, in Harlow, was able to plan for a new build hospital when west Hertfordshire couldn't.

Herts Valleys CCG chief executive Kathryn Magson said that there were differences between the business cases of the two organisations, but that both would have to follow the same rules and guidelines.

"Ultimately our responsibility is to progress and get the best for west Hertfordshire patients - and we can only comment on our 'strategic outline case'," she said.

Ms Magson also told councillors that one of the key tests in the allocation of funds was whether it was 'affordable' to pay back.

Even on an allocation of £350million, she said West Hertfordshire would have to pay back £16million a year, "so efficiency savings would be significant".

Ms Magson also confirmed to councillors that over the summer they had been asked to explore the possibility of a proposal that would invest in Watford General and a new planned care centre.

Councillors were told that if the proposal was to change to a two site plan, it would require public consultation.

At the start of the meeting councillors were told that a resident had applied for a Judicial Review - and as a result of that process they may be restricted on what they could say.

No date for the judicial review hearing has yet been set.