Audit Office says no documented evidence for final selection of Watford General

The Government’s decision to choose Watford General for a new hospital was made without proper recorded evidence, according to the public spending watchdog.

In scathing comments on the list of sites for development under the New Hospital Programme, a new National Audit Office report says it cannot determine ‘whether there was an evidence-based process for selecting these schemes as opposed to others.’ (page 24)

The NAO says civil servants have admitted that ‘the final selection of [NHP] schemes involved choices and judgements for which no further documentation is available …  there is no basis for us to determine why DHSC selected these schemes (page 22).

The Government’s failure to provide any explanation of why Watford General was chosen for the NHP rather than other sites – including clear new sites within West Hertfordshire – undermines the case for redevelopment there.

New Hospital Campaign Co-ordinator Philip Aylett said today:

“This is a devastating blow for the Trust. Neither they nor the Government have ever produced a shred of  objective evidence for choosing Watford General for a new building.

“We now know that the Government’s choice of Watford General for development was based not on reliable evidence but on ‘choices and judgements for which no further documentation is available’. It is absurd that the future of our hospitals for the next 60 years should rely on such feeble, secretive foundations.

“The Trust may claim that they have examined and rejected the case for an alternative to Watford General following the three-year-old ‘Site Feasibility Study’. But that’s grossly misleading The SFS study report admitted that its judgements were ‘subjective’. The Government’s own spending rules make clear that investment decisions must only be made on credible objective evidence. This whole process has been riddled with subjectivity – bias – from the start“

The NAO report contains many other criticisms of the NHP process. The New Hospital Campaign will be publishing a fuller analysis of the NAO report in the next few days. Here is the New-hospital-programme-report.