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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

Scores of West Herts residents watched online as a High Court case about the future of the area’s hospitals, brought by the New Hospital Campaign (NHC), went ahead this week.

Campaigners for a new hospital were amazed and heartened by the public interest in the judicial review case, in which they urge the West Herts Trust to carry out a proper consultation on its plans. In just 24 hours more than 80 people requested access through the NHC to proceedings in the virtual courtroom.

The NHC’s barrister David Wolfe QC, supported by solicitors from Leigh Day, put forward our arguments that that the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) failed to consult the public properly before deciding to eliminate the option of a new hospital option in 2019. In the same year, the campaigners say that the HVCCG wrongly concluded that it did not need to have a formal public consultation about its own preferred option – involving disruptive demolition, refurbishment and some new build on the crumbling and part-polluted Watford site.

The Campaign wants the health bodies to conduct a full consultation so that a fair choice of sites can be offered to the public. The result of the judicial review case in the High Court before Mr Justice Kerr will be announced in a few weeks.

Jean Ritchie of the NHC said:
‘Once again so many people in West Hertfordshire have shown that they want a new modern hospital on a clear and accessible central site. It is still a complete mystery why the HVCCG and the West Herts Hospitals Trust are so insistent on this short-sighted approach.

‘All the evidence suggests that few people support the idea of redeveloping Watford General. The Trust published an opinion survey which contained some misleading and biased questions to help their case. Despite this bias, the survey results were clear – a substantial majority of respondents disagreed with the preferred option of trying to improve Watford General’.

Supporters of the fundraiser for the Judicial Review now face a wait of weeks or possibly months for the final outcome.

From everyone at New Hospital Campaign, thank you once again for all your support to bring this case to the court and continue the fight for the hospital West Herts needs.

Patient safety concerns take second place to obsession with Watford Hospital

Hospital campaigners, including DHAG have criticised local health bodies who yesterday (1st October, 2020) decided to ignore the case for a new convenient central modern hospital to serve everyone in West Hertfordshire.

The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) described the decision to spend over half a billion pounds on refurbishment and new build at Vicarage Road Watford as rushed and based on flawed, shaky and often misleading evidence.

Flying in the face of expert analysis and their own massaged survey which revealed public and NHS staff disquiet about their plans, West Herts Hospital Trust (WHHT) and Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) today produced a shortlist including SIX Watford options and none for anywhere else in West Herts.

Key to the decision was timing – the Government wants a new hospital in West Herts by 2025 or 2026. Meeting jointly, the two health bodies claimed on flimsy evidence that new central greenfield sites would take much longer to build on than new facilities at Watford.

A spokesperson for New Hospital Campaign commented on this point:

'Yet a report led by West Herts’ own partner Trust, the Royal Free, showed that a new greenfield hospital could be built just as quickly.  All the timings were close to each other. '

Once again, the views and needs of local residents have been ignored and this decision will come back to haunt those that made it.

The full press released from New Hospital Campaign can be read here .

West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) finally produced a public survey in September asking local residents to give their views on hospital services.

The survey was rushed out and unfairly favoured development at the Vicarage Road site of Watford General Hospital.  It was inaccurate in relation to the review of other sites that the Trust had previously commissioned.  The New Hospital Campaign noted the following flaws along with others:

  • The survey fails to provide the public with genuine options - it was published the same day as the draft shortlist which only includes Vicarage Road options;
  • Was hastily put on the Trust website and gave respondents just 11 days to complete it;
  • It was wide open to manipulation because the online form can be filled in multiple times by the same person at the same computer;
  • It contained leading questions encouraging the public to support options at Vicarage Road

Furthermore, the CEO of WHHT urged readers in the Watford Observer to complete the survey but her letter did not appear in equivalent newspapers covering Dacorum and St. Albans District.

Twice before we have had petitions reaching over 10,000 signatures for a new hospital on a clear central site and there are many active groups online that share the same view. But the Trust and Herts Valleys CCG have consistently side-lined it.

In summary, the data collected from this survey should not be presented as an accurate representation of public opinion.

Click here for the full press release

Click here for the NHC paper on '9 Major Flaws'

Campaigners for a new hospital have raised serious doubts about a review of possible sites for hospital redevelopment in West Herts.                                            The review, called a Site Feasibility Study, has been
commissioned by the West Herts Hospital Trust (WHHT) and is being used in the selection of a shortlist of sites for the project, due to be decided on 1 October.

However, the New Hospital Campaign (a joint campaign between DHAG, Berkhamsted and St. Albans Campaigners) are concerned that the study is led by a company wholly owned by Royal Free London Trust, which has a close and increasing working relationship with West Herts Trust.  Therefore, campaigners are concerned that this is not an independent study at all and is weighted in favour of the trust and not local residents.

For example, a study of one site at Watford General is rated as highly suitable for re-development, despite there being a large sewer that runs underneath the site and notes that suggest there is a likely risk of contamination once work starts.

This example and others are good reasons why a new build on a clear central site would be far better value for money for local residents.  The trust believe that re-development could be completed by 2025, but NHC's buildings expert team think this is unrealistic compared with the option of a new hospital on a clear site.

The full study commissioned by WHHT can be read at the link below, followed by a link to our technical appraisal of the study by a very experienced construction specialist, questions about the independence of the study and our full press release.

We asking members of the public who would be interested and can be involved in fighting against these decisions that we believe are not in the public interest, to please get in touch via the Contact Us form with any information you may have.

Full Feasibility Study

NHC Technical Appraisal

NHC Questions on Independence of Study

NHC Full Press Release