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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


The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) has succeeded in obtaining a crucial
letter about hospital redevelopment in West Herts which the West Herts
Hospitals Trust (WHHT) has received from the Department of Health and
Social Care (DHSC).

The letter has been referred to at recent stakeholder meetings which the public have been invited to, however this letter has never been produced until it was disclosed to NHC's solicitors as part of the ongoing judicial review.

The letter seems to instruct West Herts Hospital Trust to only present 3 options to be considered for much needed hospital investment, all of which focus on Watford being the main site for A&E.  This despite 2 petitions signed by tens of thousands of residents saying they want a new hospital built on a more accessible site.

The full press release from NHC can be read below along with the damning letter in full from the Department of Health and Social Care.

NHC Press Release 29.07.2020

Letter to WHHT from Department of Health RE: Watford Hospital

Plans for new hospital provision in west Hertfordshire, which are the
subject of a legal challenge by the NHC, have been comprehensively
attacked by a highly experienced construction expert, Robert Scott.

He has studied the proposals by the Herts Valleys

Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG) and the West Herts Hospitals NHS
Trust (WHHT) to rebuild a few of the decrepit and unsafe buildings at
Watford General Hospital, do very little work at St. Albans City Hospital
and leave Hemel Hempstead as a hospital in name only.

HVCCG and WHHT argue they faced a funding limit of £350 million from
central government and this is the best solution within that cap. However
Mr. Scott concludes his 35 page report for the NHC by stating that there
is no prospect of constructing a credible redevelopment or new build plan
within that limit. He says that the whole feasibility of the plans are
unproven and the subject of major doubt”.

He states that the assumptions made about costs have many flaws and
concludes that the cost impact of the selected option is much greater than
building a new hospital on a clear central site, so the latter option should
now be re-evaluated. He argues that the search for alternative sites was
terminated prematurely” and should now be started up again.

He estimates that the chosen option would cost far more than the stated
£350 million limit - £530 million for not even solving half the problems on
the Vicarage Road site. A single site new build could be constructed for a
broadly similar figure but savings could be made to the cost which would
not be possible via redevelopment because “it is not possible to establish
the hidden conditions of the buildings to be demolished… until they are vacated” nor can decontamination needs be established.

Also Mr. Scott considers the estimated time to finish the planned redevelopment – less than three years – is unrealistic. He says it would probably take double
this time with cost implications, and that it would certainly take longer
than a complete new build.

Mr. Scott has compared the costs of several new build hospital projects
around the country and concludes that they tend to be at least 40% lower
than those estimated for a new build hospital in west Hertfordshire, so a much
smaller figure than has been calculated would be achievable. It also
needs to be considered, says Mr. Scott, that “new buildings can be
expected to be virtually maintenance free for 7 to 10 years” whereas
partly redeveloped existing estates will keep needing attention “through
numerous failures and breakdowns”.

There would also be a negative impact on staff recruitment and retention
because of “the poor environment and disruption during the works” that
of course would not apply to a new build, which would also attract more
revenue because of higher bookings for elective surgery and treatment.
Mr. Scott says his overall verdict is that “there is no credible basis to
have excluded the Clear Site New Build options and no case for
continuing to pursue the proposed redevelopment of the Watford

The report can be read in full by clicking here

Robert Scott has had many years’ experience at a senior level in major construction
companies including several NHS projects and is a Fellow of the Chartered
Institute of Building.

The NHC believes the NHS must take the implications of this thorough
and meticulous analysis very seriously and urgently institute a change of

As reported previously the NHC has launched a legal challenge by judicial
review against HVCCG for not carrying out the required public
consultation before excluding the new hospital options, and also before
choosing their preferred option. There is a target of £20,000 to fund the
legal action and we urge the public to support this via

or direct to our bank account:

NAME:DHAG-New Hospital Campaign
SORT CODE:30-80-49

The plans referred to are known as a Strategic Outline Case (SOC) which was
approved by the HVCCG and WHHT boards on 11 July and has now been
submitted to NHS regulators for consideration.