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The cost of the planned 17-storey triple-tower block hospital for Watford General Hospital has soared to at least £900 million, according to expert calculations released today. The West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust is persisting with the unaffordable high-rise plans despite clear instructions from the Government to cut back.

Building experts from the New Hospital Campaign (NHC) point out that the Trust risks wasting £8 million in fees on the scheme, which is the Trust’s ‘preferred option’ but now has no real chance of being built.

A new build hospital, on a clear central site, would cost significantly less to build as there would be no requirement to build such tall buildings.  It could be built much faster too, reducing costs even further.

The plans for the UK’s tallest hospital outside central London, have increased by 50 percent in less than a year. Today they were described as ‘very expensive pie in the sky’.

To read our full press release click HERE

watford-hospital-plans-dacorum-west-herts-nhs

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The finished product of these short-sighted plans will be three intimidating and outdated tower blocks, which can never provide the healing environment we have been promised by architects.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

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

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

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

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 .

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