Hemel Hempstead MP Sir Mike Penning led local hospital campaigners to meet with Minister of State for Health, Stephen Hammond MP, to discuss options for the future of hospital services in west Hertfordshire.
Sir Mike said:
“I am delighted to have secured the meeting last week. It was very constructive, and the Minister was fully engaged with all we said.
“The New Hospital Campaign explained the existing position and dire situation of the current buildings at Watford, the views of local people and the intransigence of the local Hospital Trust.”
Robert Scott, Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Building and Professional Adviser to the New Hospital Campaign took the Minister on a detailed examination of the existing buildings at Watford, the benefits of a clear-site build and the availability of sites, such as the site on Crown Estate land between Leverstock Green and the M1. He also outlined the risks of rebuilding on the existing site whilst keeping the hospital fully open.
Campaign co-ordinator Professor Ron Glatter told the Minister that at the Trust’s public meeting on 29 January this year, the new site option was dismissed within the first two minutes as, the Trust say, it would cost £700-£750 million. This figure would make it about twice the cost of other similar new build hospitals and probably the most expensive ever in the UK. The campaign group have asked for a breakdown of costs but the trust has been unable to provide this.
At a comparable Trust, the Princess Alexandra Hospital (PAH) Trust in West Essex is opting for a new-build option despite having a lower turnover than West Herts.
Campaign member Edie Glatter, who is a patient representative on the Evaluation Panel, told the Minister how the Trust’s assertion that the Evaluation Panel had all supported their proposals was untrue and that the Trust had not allowed the Panel's support for a new A+E hospital to be tested.
Speaking afterwards, Professor Ron Glatter added:
"We pointed out that unless a new hospital on a clear, central site is fully and fairly considered the process will have no credibility. It was good that the Minister promised to review everything we had said".
Sir Mike added:
“I really feel that the Minister listened and understood the position.
“I am at a loss, to be honest, as to why the Trust continues to fight against the sensible, pragmatic solution of a new build option. There is overwhelming public support for a new build hospital. It is common sense, logical and the New Hospital Campaign group have proven it to be the most cost efficient and safe solution.
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with land becoming available between Leverstock Green and the M1.”