West Herts Hospitals cash: Campaigners give guarded welcome
West Herts Hospitals Trust is expected to receive a £400million cash boost - but the news received a mixed response this week.
Health campaigners and MP Mike Penning both said that the cash was welcome, while insisting that it must be spent on a new hospital rather than upgrading Watford.
And opposition councillors were sceptical about where the money would come from, after “years of austerity and under-investment”.
As reported on this website, West Herts will be one of six hospital trusts to benefit from a £2.7billion investment that was announced on Saturday.
Sir Mike Penning, Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead, said: “It is great news that the government has recognised that this part of Hertfordshire needs new hospital facilities.
“It is obvious that this is a great opportunity to build a new state-of-the-art hospital on a new site that serves all the local communities. The trust needs to recognise this.
“They want to spend nearly all this money on rebuilding Watford but it will be a complete waste and an utter disaster. Everyone knows it is a mistake to try to rebuild Watford on the existing site right next door to a Premier League football club in the Victorian back streets.
“I am working with local campaigners to make sure that the hospital trust sees sense and grabs this opportunity to build a new hospital in an accessible location with lots of free parking. This would benefit everybody in west Hertfordshire.”
At the beginning of September the New Hospital Campaign announced that it was “reluctantly” launching a judicial review, over health bosses’ failure to properly consider the possibility of building a new hospital.
This week spokesman Edie Glatter insisted that this news did not change the group’s position.
She said: “We are pleased that the appalling condition of our hospital estates has been recognised but we must not go forward with the hopeless proposals to patch up the Watford site that the local health bosses have been promoting.
“We were promised a completely new hospital more than ten years ago. Now is the opportunity to fulfil that promise.”
She added: “Too many buildings on the Vicarage Road site are beyond renovation. The 35-page analysis which we published last week showed that this would be a far more expensive option overall than a new A&E hospital on a clear central site. It would also be more risky, take much longer to complete and give a poorer result at the end, certainly not ‘state-of-the-art’. And a new hospital would be a lot easier to get to for most west Herts residents.
“It might be single site or with planned care at one of the existing sites. This must be the way to go for us and for future generations. Unless it is fully and fairly considered, which has not yet happened, the decision-making process will not be credible.
“We would urge all local MPs to publicly get on board with this approach as Sir Mike has done.”
Meanwhile Cllr Ron Tindall, who leads the Lib Dem opposition at Dacorum Borough Council, referred to Theresa May’s “magic money tree” when questioning how the investment would be financed.
He added: “Boris Johnson is already offering tax cuts for his rich friends, and that will cost a fortune. Where is the money for this going to come from?
“This is all about fishing for votes in marginal constituencies such as Watford - the Prime Minister likes to act the buffoon but he’s a highly intelligent plotter.
“We’ve had years of austerity and under-investment from the Tories. People can see through this,”