Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning has backed New Hospital Campaign calls for a review by senior NHS officials of redevelopment plans for Watford General Hospital.

A scathing report by spending watchdog the National Audit Office has recently uncovered serious problems with the NHS’s efforts to deliver 40 ‘new’ hospitals, including  the proposed collection of tower blocks at Watford, by 2030.

In a letter to the Hertfordshire and West Essex Integrated Care Board (ICB), which oversees the conduct of the West Herts Trust, Philip Aylett, NHC Co-ordinator, shows how the NAO report helps to undermine the Trust’s case for Watford. Key issues include :

  • Confusion over the amount of money needed to build the 260-foot Watford structure. The Trust have suggested it will take about £1.2 bn, but the NAO reveals that it could cost up to £2 bn;
  • Concern that any new Watford building will be too small to serve the rapidly growing and ageing population of West Herts. The Trust is having to look again at its ‘costs and scope’ to make it fit within national guidelines;
  • Lack of capacity in the construction industry. Few building companies will risk taking on massive projects like Watford General, where a severe and potentially contaminated slope alongside a busy existing emergency hospital makes the site very unattractive. That could mean higher costs and delay for the Trust’s plans;
  • Failure to consider alternatives that could offer better services for patients, and better value for money, which is a key factor for the spending watchdog.

Mr Aylett calls on the ICB to carry out ‘a new review of possible sites for an emergency care and specialist hospital in West Hertfordshire.’ That should include a new, independent and comprehensive review of potential clear, new accessible sites away from Vicarage Road.

Sir Mike has sent the NHC letter to Health Secretary Steve Barclay and West Herts Trust Chief Executive Matthew Coats, saying that he fully concurs with Mr Aylett’s letter. Sir Mike continues:

‘We have a great opportunity here to make sure that we have a hospital facility for the 21st and 22nd Century, and I urge all recipients of this letter to take the contents of it very seriously and treat it with the respect that it deserves’.

The NHC letter to the ICB is here.