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Watford borough council have approved an outline planning application for the re-furbishment of Watford General Hospital.  The plans are for 3 high-rise buildings to occupy the current hospital site.

The New Hospital Campaingers believe that this is the wrong scheme in the wrong place and at 270 feet, this will be tallest NHS building outside London.  In a densely populated suburban town, this will stick out like a sore thumb.

Costs are expected to be over £900 million, which would mean financial ruin for the local NHS.  The Government have already told the Trust that they must cut their costs.  These plans are purely pie in the sky thinking and if they were ever to actually be built, would cause at least 5 years of disruption and risk to patients at Watford.

The finished product of these short-sighted plans will be three intimidating and outdated tower blocks, which can never provide the healing environment we have been promised by architects.

There are other serious flaws with these plans which do not consider problems with poor air quality, wind tunnel effects between high buildings and worst of all serious flood risks.

We and our families will be stuck with these high-rises for sixty years, unless like so many old concrete 1960s tower blocks, they are demolished first.

The NHC, representing views of those across West Herts, continue to call for fresh thinking for a new hospital on a clean new site, easily accessible by people from all over West Herts.  It should have medium-rise buildings that will be better for patients, cheaper and quicker to build than these concrete block towers.

Survey contains damning criticism of Trust’s stewardship of West Herts hospitals

Plans for redeveloping Watford General Hospital would make a bad situation worse, according to a damning survey of local public opinion. The independent survey commissioned by West Herts Hospital Trust, revealed less than 10% of public comments about the West Herts Hospitals Trust’s proposals for the Vicarage Road site were completely positive.

The survey also reveals that many local people are deeply unhappy with the current performance of the West Herts Trust in trying to provide a caring environment for patients and staff at Watford.

The New Hospital Campaign (NHC), which wants a truly new emergency hospital on a central site accessible for the whole area, says the survey, carried out in February and March this year, proves a complete reassessment of the project is urgently needed.

An NHC spokesperson commented “This survey shows the depth of the crisis of confidence which faces the West Herts Trust. It is doubly disturbing, revealing not only that many people are unhappy with the present environment at Watford General, but that the Trust’s expensive and impractical plans for the future inspire little faith in many West Herts people.”

“All in all, the public have delivered a stunningly negative verdict on the stewardship of the Trust and their plans for the future. Action is needed now to put this right. The option of building a new hospital on a clear central site, along with good facilities in all three towns, must be properly and honestly explored”.

You can read our full press release here, the New Hospital Campaign's response in full here and the survey feedback here.

The survey feedback is well worth taking the time to read.  Thanks to all those in Dacorum who took the time to complete it, your voices were heard loud and clear.  We encourage any residents of St.Albans & District who are also dissatisfied with plans to develop Watford General to contact us, to strengthen the cause for a brand new hospital on a clear central site.

With more local health services being provided by private providers, DHAG commissioned a survey last February 2020 to find out how local residents rated these service providers and discover what issues patients faced getting to and during appointments.

Previous to this survey being circulated, we had already sent a report to Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, raising concerns we had after receiving several patient testimonials about the poor service they'd experienced.

Further to this, DHAG have been unable to find how these service providers are being held accountable and what targets are in place to ensure the best service possible is received by Dacorum residents.

The full survey report and findings can be read here however the key issues residents highlighted were; poor parking facilities, poor quality of consultation and poor communication.

Many participants also took the opportunity to leave detailed (anonymous) comments about their experiences:

'very few parking spaces.  Has to park in town centre car park and walk from there, having recently had a knee replacement'

'Felt my mother was rushed especially when she was told she could download her exercises online.  Difficult when you don’t have a computer'

'The telephone number doesn’t seem to be monitored and repeated calls and long waits on the line seemed normal'

DHAG are following up these findings and comments with HVCCG, as whilst our survey was small, there are areas for concern that must be addressed as soon as possible.

We are calling on the HVCCG to undertake a larger, more comprehensive survey to provide better insight and improvements to these services.

Dacorum Outsourcing Survey - FULL ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS

The West Herts NHS Trust are letting private sector developers ‘run rings round it’ in negotiations over the future of Watford General Hospital. The Hospital is set to lose half the area it currently uses, as commercial interests take the best land on its current site.

The Trust have announced controversial plans to house the Hospital in three of Watford’s tallest buildings – 18, 16 and 14 storeys high. Now planning documents have revealed that Watford’s high- rise hospital is set to be closely hemmed in by even more multi-storey blocks, many built by developers.  The tallest of the three planned hospital towers will reach 80 metres – 12.5 metres higher than Grenfell Tower.

The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) today accused the Trust of an ‘abject failure’ in its negotiations, leaving the high-rise hospital to be built on its notoriously sloping car park and marooned in a sea of overdevelopment that will mean that the WGH site will contain buildings with more than 150 storeys between them – a 500 percent rise on the number of storeys on the site at present.

Click here for full press release and analysis.

The Campaign will continue to press for the new hospital to be built instead on a clear central site easily accessible to all in West Hertfordshire.

We know this can be achieved. With a new lower-rise hospital on a clear site near Harlow set to replace the present cramped urban Princess Alexandra Hospital, this is an example of what can be achieved by an NHS Trust with the right priorities.

We are asking residents of St. Albans and District, Dacorum including Hemel Hempstead, Berkhamsted, Tring to make their views known by 23 April in a virtual consultation which can be reached by clicking this link: https://www.bdp.com/westhertshospitals

The future of a leading cancer treatment centre serving a population of two million in south east England is increasingly uncertain, as plans to share a site with Watford’s acute hospital run into serious practical obstacles. Contradictory statements from the NHS are causing confusion.

Mount Vernon Cancer Centre (MVCC) in Northwood is one of the country’s top cancer hubs, with an international reputation for treatment, and it helps many thousands of patients annually. But years of neglect have left its buildings in a poor state and care is hampered by the need to move patients to other hospitals if their condition deteriorates. Recruitment is difficult.
The answer is seen by clinicians and patients as a move to share a site with an acute hospital that can step in when needed to provide intensive care and other support. Watford General Hospital - one of the six flagship ‘new hospital’ sites under the HIP1 programme announced in 2019 - is emerging as the preferred route forward.

Right area, wrong site

Health campaigners in Hertfordshire’s New Hospital Campaign group (NHC) have warmly welcomed the idea of combining the site of an acute hospital for West Hertfordshire with a new Mount Vernon. That would leave MVCC geographically well-placed to serve the huge region it covers, extending from Buckinghamshire and Bedfordshire to North London. However, the NHC believe that a combination of Mount Vernon with a new acute and emergency West Herts hospital on a clear central site for the area would be better than trying to refurbish and rebuild at Watford General, where buildings are ageing and unsuitable.

Click here to read our full report

New Hospital Campaigners are asking residents in Dacorum and St. Albans to be wary of the latest survey issued by West Herts Hospital Trust.

The leading questions are worded in a way that suggests to residents of both areas, that they are going to receive a significant investment to upgrade both Hemel and St. Albans City hospital.  But the answers to these questions will be used to prop up the case for re-development at the Watford General site.

A NHC representative commented "Everything is being sold to give a completely different impression.  For example question 4 on the first page includes this statement:  "Each of the three hospitals specialise in a specific healthcare area, allowing expert staff to work better together on one site, and allowing patients to access the best staff, technologies and treatments for their need". 

That sounds great but most people filling in the survey won't realise the crucial background about the funding intention because it is not being provided.  People are being deceived.  "

The planned funding split is roughly 92% for Watford General
and JUST 8% to be divided between St Albans and Hemel hospitals.

This is something that is not mentioned on this survey and NHC want residents to know this before completing answers.

The New Hospital Campaigners say that residents want that 92% of funding to go to a brand new 'state of the art A&E hospital, on a clear, central site in west Hertfordshire.

THAT WOULD BE FAR BETTER FOR EVERYBODY, FINISHED SOONER
AND BETTER VALUE FOR THE TAXPAYER

After all, it's part of the national 'New Hospital Programme'.

NHC are encouraging residents to complete the survey and tell the trust what you think, as well as your local MP and County Councillor candidates.

We would also like to hear from concerned residents about your views and if you have any questions related to the funding of hospital re-development plans.

You can get in touch by emailing: info@dhag.org

Beware the WHHT Hard Sell!

Doubts grow over health Trust timetable claims

Hospital campaigners have raised serious questions over claims made by the West Herts Hospital Trust that new hospital facilities at Watford General can be built by about 2025.

The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) believes a new hospital should be built on a clear central site in west Hertfordshire, while the Trust insists on redeveloping the Watford site. The Campaign has now written to the newly-installed leader of the Government’s campaign to build 40 new hospitals nationally, pointing out serious errors in the Trust’s arguments for building at Watford, and calling on her to order an urgent investigation and review of the facts before irrevocable decisions are made.

The Trust’s argument for building at Watford rather than on a new clear site rests mainly on an estimate in a Site Feasibility Study (SFS) produced by Royal Free Property Services - a close corporate partner of the West Herts Trust - that claimed that new facilities could be provided at Watford by 2025 or 2026, to meet a government-imposed deadline.

A detailed review by Mike Naxton, an independent construction planning specialist, has cast doubt on the SFS estimate, saying that work under the Trust’s plans would probably continue until 2030. A new hospital on a clear site could, according to Mr Naxton, be built more rapidly. The Trust has not challenged the facts of the Naxton review.

For our full response and analysis, please click here to read the full article

The New Hospital Campaign (NHC), which is fighting for a new A+E hospital on a clear, central site in west Hertfordshire, has branded a Hertfordshire County Council scrutiny meeting a “farce” and “grotesquely unbalanced”.

The meeting, which was held to scrutinise the West Hertfordshire Hospital Trust’s plans to renovate Watford General Hospital and make minor improvements at St. Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, was called a ‘topic group’ of the County’s health scrutiny committee. It was held on 8 February. The group supported the Trust’s plans though one councillor disagreed.

The NHC had asked to make a presentation at the meeting but received no reply to their request. Altogether the Trust and other local health bodies were allowed to dominate the all-day proceedings with 15 minutes at the start allocated to ‘public witnesses’.

This is despite the fact that an online survey run by the Trust last September showed that a large majority of the 3000 plus respondents disagreed with the plans, and that there have been two petitions on the parliamentary website, each recording more than 10,000 residents demanding a hospital on a new, accessible site.
A spokesperson for the Group called the meeting “a farce and grotesquely unbalanced”, adding that it reached “truly bizarre conclusions, including that the Trust’s plans did not amount to ‘substantial development of service requiring formal consultation with the Committee’, even though it involved the expenditure of hundreds of millions of pounds with implications over many decades to come”.

You can read the full press release on this meeting here. We are keen to hear from our supporters about their views or if they are able to help our campaign. Please get in touch by emailing info@dhag.org.uk

Legal challenge only dealt with issues of procedure

The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) will continue the battle to secure a new A+E hospital in west Hertfordshire despite a High Court judge having ruled that the local health bodies acted lawfully by refusing a public consultation on their plans in 2019.

Nonetheless, the High Court did acknowledge that the NHC was not given access to the full calculations and projections used to estimate the cost of the new build options, and recognised that NHC’s contribution to the debate about the rejection of those options could have been more fully informed than it was, had the NHC and others been given that information or if our requests for meetings with the local health bodies had been granted.

Regrettably, the High Court concluded that the legal duty was simply to “involve” the public, and not formally consult them, so such deficiencies did not amount to legal errors.

However, the High Court remarked that the 2019 decisions were not set in stone and the financial position may have altered since then. It further repeated the principle of public importance that decision makers arrive at decisions lawfully and are held to account by the court if they do not, which of course applies to any future decisions made about hospital redevelopment plans.

A NHC spokesperson said “Of course we are surprised and disappointed by the judge’s decision but it’s vital to understand this was not about whether it is better to keep patching up the current Vicarage Road site in Watford or to go for a central, clear site for a new hospital fit for the coming decades. It was purely about the process used to reach two decisions that were made a year and a half ago. The processes used by the local health bodies in the next decision stage in 2020 have been even more deficient but they could not feature in the legal case”.

“There has not been a full public consultation about hospital redevelopment in our area since 2007. We need one now, and it must include new site options. A substantial majority of the respondents to the Trust’s online survey last September disagreed with the proposed short list which excluded all new site options. Building on the existing site will involve years of disruption just when we are trying to recover from the pandemic. A solution based on a clear site in a central, accessible location would be so much quicker and safer as well as providing much greater flexibility for the future”.

You can read our full press release here.

We would like to say thank you once again to all our supporters who so kindly donated to our crowdfunding campaign online and in person, to help fund this legal case.  Also our thanks goes to all those who helped to share the news far and wide to get our voices heard.

We will continue to fight for the best interests of ALL residents in West Hertfordshire for better hospital provision fit for the 21st Century.

Current Case for Re-building Watford Would Take Longer Than Claimed

An independent expert report published today aims severe criticism at the plans of the West Herts Trust for the future of the area’s hospitals.  Major projects specialist Mike Naxton shows that trying to improve the situation at the cramped Vicarage Road site in Watford – the option favoured by the Trust – could take much longer than building a new hospital on a fresh central site.

This new evidence  is crucial to the future of the area’s hospitals, because the West Herts Trust (WHHT) has denied calls for a proper appraisal of all options, arguing that a new hospital on a convenient new site would take longer than patching-up at Vicarage Road.

The Naxton Report concludes:

"In my experience it is rare for redevelopment projects such as proposed at Watford to complete near to time, due to not understanding all the unknowns, even with the most competent design and construction teams.  The pressures to meet the HIP1 funding timeframe seem to have led to the production of programmes that may be optimistic, based upon working at risk but do not include all critical activities that can be identified at this stage. 

The same level of complexity of unknowns and risks would not apply to construction on a Greenfield site that in contrast would allow greater opportunities for more efficient design and construction methodology - resulting in programme certainty.

Campaigners believe the Report proves that a new hospital on a clear, convenient central site would provide better value for money and speedier delivery of new hospital facilities than the ‘desperate and dysfunctional’ Vicarage Road options favoured by the Trust.  WHHT’s existing plans offer ‘very poor value for money and many more years of unpleasant working conditions and high maintenance costs.’

Mr Naxton’s report, commissioned  by the New Hospital Campaign, uses advanced  software to assess the options and concludes that a new emergency care hospital on a new site could be built up to three years quicker than the Trust’s favoured option of a mixture of demolition, refurbishment and some new build at Watford General.  The Report shows that the Trust’s statements have systematically exaggerated the time it would take to build a new hospital on a new site – while unrealistically minimising the time it would take to carry out its plans for Vicarage Road.

The full media release can be read here and the report viewed here