Legal challenge only dealt with issues of procedure

The New Hospital Campaign (NHC) will continue the battle to secure a new A+E hospital in west Hertfordshire despite a High Court judge having ruled that the local health bodies acted lawfully by refusing a public consultation on their plans in 2019.

Nonetheless, the High Court did acknowledge that the NHC was not given access to the full calculations and projections used to estimate the cost of the new build options, and recognised that NHC’s contribution to the debate about the rejection of those options could have been more fully informed than it was, had the NHC and others been given that information or if our requests for meetings with the local health bodies had been granted.

Regrettably, the High Court concluded that the legal duty was simply to “involve” the public, and not formally consult them, so such deficiencies did not amount to legal errors.

However, the High Court remarked that the 2019 decisions were not set in stone and the financial position may have altered since then. It further repeated the principle of public importance that decision makers arrive at decisions lawfully and are held to account by the court if they do not, which of course applies to any future decisions made about hospital redevelopment plans.

A NHC spokesperson said “Of course we are surprised and disappointed by the judge’s decision but it’s vital to understand this was not about whether it is better to keep patching up the current Vicarage Road site in Watford or to go for a central, clear site for a new hospital fit for the coming decades. It was purely about the process used to reach two decisions that were made a year and a half ago. The processes used by the local health bodies in the next decision stage in 2020 have been even more deficient but they could not feature in the legal case”.

“There has not been a full public consultation about hospital redevelopment in our area since 2007. We need one now, and it must include new site options. A substantial majority of the respondents to the Trust’s online survey last September disagreed with the proposed short list which excluded all new site options. Building on the existing site will involve years of disruption just when we are trying to recover from the pandemic. A solution based on a clear site in a central, accessible location would be so much quicker and safer as well as providing much greater flexibility for the future”.

You can read our full press release here.

We would like to say thank you once again to all our supporters who so kindly donated to our crowdfunding campaign online and in person, to help fund this legal case.  Also our thanks goes to all those who helped to share the news far and wide to get our voices heard.

We will continue to fight for the best interests of ALL residents in West Hertfordshire for better hospital provision fit for the 21st Century.