Restoring Hemel’s A&E is not the answer to ‘long-term issues’, says health boss

Dr Nicolas Small, chair of the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group
Dr Nicolas Small, chair of the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group

A top health boss has ruled out restoring A&E services in Hemel Hempstead – both now and in the future.

Dr Nicolas Small, chairman of Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which oversees the area’s health services, said: “We do not plan to open a new A&E service in Hemel because that is not the way to deal with the short or long term issues, either from the perspective of patient care or in order to make best use of the obviously limited financial resources.”

Despite the Dacorum Hospital Action Group’s long-standing campaign to restore the town’s A&E service, backed by the people, Dr Small says a stand-alone emergency department would not be ‘safe’ without other specialist services built around it for acutely-ill patients.

He added: “Splitting the delivery of the most acute, specialist services between two separate hospital sites in the same area is not feasible in terms of the availability of the right staff – not just now but in the future - and again does not deliver proper levels of patient safety and quality care.

“National clinical guidance suggests a major hospital is not workable for a population size of less than 500,000.”

As it stands, Hemel’s population is hovering around 90,000 and adding in Berkhamsted, Tring, Watford and St Albans, the total figure for the whole of Dacorum and the area covered by the hospital trust is around 257,000.

Dr Small says the best course of action is to make the existing hospitals work ‘more effectively’, and to make better use of more local health facilities.

He said: “The west Hertfordshire strategic review, Your Care, Your Future, is making good progress in identifying those changes that we must make in future to improve services across west Hertfordshire including acute hospital care, and with a focus on developing a network of care closer to where people live – including new and enhanced services in Hemel Hempstead to handle those with urgent care needs. We think these changes will make a real difference to patients.

“In the meantime, we and our colleagues at West Herts Hospitals Trust and other health care providers are doing all we can to deal with the current difficulties and we ask local residents to help us and themselves, by taking note of the advice issued by us and West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust.”