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Milestone reached for hospital plans

A major upgrade of health facilities for patients in west Hertfordshire is a step closer following a key NHS board meeting yesterday (29 June 2017).

Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group has given the go-ahead to take the redevelopment of Watford General and St Albans hospitals to the next stage.

The board formally approved the strategic outline case (SOC) produced by West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust (WHHT) which proposes the redevelopment of existing hospital sites at Watford General Hospital and St Albans City Hospital. Both NHS organisations have stated their ambition for as much new-build as possible.

During the past 18 months the two local NHS organisations have listened to and engaged with local people to consider a wide range of options, including a brand new hospital on a new ‘greenfield’ site. Evidence from detailed analysis commissioned from industry experts demonstrated that the redevelopment of existing sites option would be quickest, more straightforward, and most cost effective. All of which make it more likely that the project could be delivered.

Chair of the Herts Valleys CCG Board, Dr Nicolas Small says: “Our decision represents a big step towards providing improved hospital facilities, complemented by a wide range of more local, joined-up services to meet the majority of people’s health and care needs, close to where they live.”

He added: “I want to thank everyone who has helped us reach this stage, including the many professionals, patients and residents who gave their views as we looked at the various options. Some patient groups - particularly from the Dacorum area – have been impassioned in their feedback, arguing strongly for a new hospital on a greenfield site. That was very evident in the attendance at our board meeting. We have said that it is our priority and duty is to develop a workable proposal that we feel is realistic and capable of being delivered in a very challenging financial climate. Our regulators have only recently reminded us that our plans to be affordable”.

Chairman of the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, Professor Steve Barnett said: “The formal approval from our CCG partners is great news for the whole population we serve. We can now put discussions about locations behind us and concentrate on identifying the funding to enable us to massively upgrade our estate and facilities.”

He added: “Planning and delivering new hospital buildings takes time but I know from the commitment I’ve seen from the team involved that they will work as fast as they can. Our staff are very excited about this decision and the prospect of delivering care for our patients in bright and more modern facilities."

“We hope that the energy shown by local people can be channelled towards working with us to secure funding and creating the highest quality facilities possible. Unifying behind one plan gives us the best chance of success.”

A separate piece of work to develop a similar strategic outline case (SOC) for the redevelopment of the Hemel Hempstead hospital site is also underway. A group of health and council experts and patients are working together to look at options for providing a range of health services to meet the needs of Hemel Hempstead residents, including relocating some services from Watford. This work is due to develop into a strategic outline case in the autumn.

The next steps on the major hospital redevelopment project are for us to formally submit the SOC later this year for consideration by national NHS bodies. We will also be embarking on detailed design work which forms part of the development of the ‘outline business case’. This is a major piece of work that will take approximately 18 months to complete.

The project to determine the services to be provided in Hemel Hempstead will continue alongside this work.