Hemel and St Albans Hospitals lose key government funding

The Government’s flagship £20 bn-plus New Hospital Programme (NHP) has pulled out of funding Hemel Hempstead and St Albans Hospitals.

With costs of Watford General’s planned new towering infirmary soaring towards £1.3 bn, the other two hospitals will now have to be funded by the local NHS, including the deficit-ridden West Herts Trust.

That casts serious doubts on the prospects for hospital services in the two towns. There has already been a delay to the construction of some new facilities at St Albans.

The Trust originally assumed that the NHP would allocate money to build at Hemel and St Albans.

Now all the Trust’s NHP capital allocation will go to the Vicarage Road site, where projected costs have doubled in the last four years.

Confirmation that Hemel and St Albans have been cast adrift by the NHP came in a letter from Government Minister Lord Markham to Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning.

Lord Markham said:

‘The NHP scheme for West Hertfordshire is for a fully funded new hospital at Watford. Whilst redevelopment work at Hemel Hempstead Hospital and St Albans City Hospital will not be part of the NHP scheme, improvements at these sites will continue to be supported by the Trust in line with their their planned approach and in collaboration with the local Integrated Care Board (ICB)’

The Trust is a long way off the financial stability it will need to fund the new Watford Hospital. It should be nearly breaking even now, but instead it faces an £18 m deficit this year and another deficit next year. Main construction work on the Watford facility will not begin until the end of 2026 – nearly three years away.

The case for a proper review of these impractical and unaffordable plans for Watford General is getting clearer by the day. There is plenty of time to consider the advantages of a new hospital on a clear new accessible site.