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We’re closer than ever to securing funding for our hospitals

Residents at a public meeting on Tuesday (29 January) heard that NHS leaders in west Hertfordshire are closer than ever to securing funding to invest in local hospitals.

Leading clinicians and managers from West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust and Herts Valleys CCG updated residents following clarification from national NHS regulators on the funding threshold for hospital plans.

The 160-plus audience heard that proposals now need to be capped at around £350million, reflecting guidance from regulators that the available capital must be in line with the hospital trust’s annual turnover. Regulators have also been clear that the trust cannot access private finance and they would be unable to support a phased financing approach that relies on securing additional funding to develop other sites in future years.

The trust and CCG said that they would not be pursuing the option of a new, single site emergency and planned care hospital because it cannot be built within available finances. The option of moving emergency care from Watford has also been ruled out because it would require many other interdependent services to also be relocated and would therefore also cost too much.

The trust and the CCG have been told that a proposal needs to be completed during the summer in order to be considered for the Comprehensive Spending Review – a funding round that normally runs on a five year cycle.

Clinicians, independent experts and NHS managers are now considering options for all services and buildings with a focus on delivering new models of care, making sure that the right services are grouped together and that the most urgent infrastructure issues are addressed.  Their work will be presented to a panel including health and care professionals, patient and community representatives, local authority partners and Healthwatch. 

The options will all involve retaining emergency and critical care at Watford General Hospital plus:

  • developing Hemel Hempstead Hospital for medicine and St Albans City Hospital for surgery or

  • centralising all planned care at either Hemel Hempstead or St Albans hospitals or replacing both sites with a new planned care centre hospital.

Another public event will take place in early March to explain the options in more detail and seek people’s views. We will publicise this event widely as soon as we have the details.

After the public meeting, the panel will meet again to evaluate the options fully, including considering public views, and agree a preferred option or options which will then undergo further financial and technical analysis, ready for a recommendation to the boards of both NHS organisations during early summer.

Proposals will seek to include as much new build as can be afforded but residents were told at this week’s meeting that £350million would not be enough to fund a comprehensive rebuild of all emergency and planned care facilities.

Helen Brown, acting chief executive at West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “We have a fantastic opportunity to transform services and deliver urgent and much-needed improvements to our hospital buildings. Given the financial constraints, any option will involve some compromise but we are determined to find a solution that will bring real benefits to patients and staff and will satisfy our regulators so that we are top of the list for funding.”

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