A local health group today attacked plans for a new health building for Hemel Hempstead to replace the town’s existing Hospital as ‘inadequate’ and showing ‘a disappointing lack of ambition’.

New statistics reveal that patients have to wait an average of nearly two-and-a-half hours to be seen at the current Hemel Hospital’s urgent treatment centre (UTC). That is above the national target for wait times in such centres, and half an hour longer than the national average. The pressure on the UTC is unrelenting for long periods.

The Dacorum Health Action Group (DHAG) warned against plans which would see demolition of the current Hospital without an adequate replacement.  Dacorum Council and the NHS are working on proposals to move services from the Hemel Hospital to a new purpose-built Health Campus on the constrained Market Square site in Marlowes, Hemel’s main street. Current plans are for a small urgent treatment centre in the new building, which would apparently just mirror the current Hemel UTC, with little capacity to expand to serve the Borough’s growing and ageing population.

Philip Aylett, Chair of DHAG, criticised the plans for failing to take account of changes in demand for health services:

‘The current plans for a new Health Campus completely fail to reflect the future needs of Dacorum. It would be very unwise to demolish the current Hospital and replace it with cramped facilities that would soon be overwhelmed by our growing and ageing population. The last thing we want is a glorified GP surgery.’

Dr Aylett said the current planning process was exactly the wrong way around:

‘The need for regeneration in Hemel is obvious, and new buildings can certainly help to revive the town. But in rushing to redevelop, the plans put the cart before the horse. The priority should be first to assess future health needs for our growing Borough, then to decide on the best location. Instead, the Council seems prepared to accept the inadequate offer made by the West Herts Hospitals Trust, which has always favoured Watford General and apparently sees Hemel Hospital as something of an embarrassment.

‘At the moment the Council is showing a disappointing lack of ambition for our health services. Hemel Hospital has some sound buildings despite years of neglect by the Trust. The UTC is too small and busy and needs to be expanded. We also need many more routine medical appointments at Hemel, so fewer Dacorum people have to make the journey to the building site that is Watford General.

‘The Council should stand up to the NHS and demand the services the Borough needs for the future’