Our hospitals in west Hertfordshire are in a dreadful condition but our local health bosses are just going for a patch-up scheme, mostly directed at only a few of the decrepit and unsafe buildings at Watford General Hospital. This will be simply papering over the cracks. There will be very little improvement at St. Albans City Hospital, and Hemel Hempstead Hospital will be a hospital in name only. It would be throwing good money after bad.
Please help fund our legal challenge to get them to put a new A+E and specialist hospital on a clear central site, that is easy to reach for everyone, on the agenda.
We have solid evidence to show that this would be a far more affordable option overall, providing much better value for money and a massively superior service for patients. They have not seriously considered it or asked the public what we want. We appeal to you to help us make sure that they do. Read on for more information and add your comments.
What is the current situation?
Our local health chiefs are going for a hopeless patch-up scheme of the decrepit and unsafe buildings of Watford General Hospital. There will be very little money left over for the hospitals at Hemel Hempstead and St Albans. (For full details see ‘The SOC story' below).
At Hemel Hempstead Hospital every building will be demolished leaving only one building, Verulam Wing, still standing.
Even that will be reduced in size from 11,320 square metres to 8,000 square metres. Most of the 37,303 square metres of land will be sold off and ever more flats built. It is pure vandalism and must be stopped.
Highly experienced experts with great knowledge of the construction industry over many years, including several NHS projects, have assured us that the claims about costs put forward by the local health bodies simply do not stack up. The work being planned will cost much more than they are saying, and will take far longer, leading to massive disruption and patient safety issues.
One of our expert colleagues has produced thorough and detailed research demonstrating this, and also that a brand new centrally-located hospital can be built for far less than revamping the inadequate Vicarage Road site. What’s more, it can be built in a much shorter time and give a far better result, custom-designed as a 21st-century, state-of-the-art hospital on a clear, accessible site.
The health chiefs have taken no notice of the people they are supposed to be serving. We have clear evidence that their minds were made up before they investigated costs. They have just been going through the motions.
WE HAVE NO OPTION BUT TO GO TO LAW TO TRY TO STOP THIS DREADFUL WASTE OF PUBLIC MONEY WHICH WILL HELP NOBODY. IT IS A LAST RESORT. It’s not a route we wanted to take but they left us with no alternative.
Why are we going to law?
Our local healthcare bodies, the CCG (Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group) and the Trust (West Herts Hospitals Trust) are jointly supporting a bid for £350 million of government funds to be spent rebuilding part of Watford General Hospital but leaving the rest untouched.
Despite us telling them as forcibly as we can that this is the worst solution for the area, they have ridden roughshod over our objections.
They claim to have carried out an extensive evaluation process on the various options available.
We say: This process was flawed from the outset. They very quickly rejected the idea of a new hospital, leaving the only remaining options ALL featuring Watford as the only acute A&E hospital for West Herts.
We need to stop them before the money is allocated. If they are given this large sum and they spend it on Watford, it will be many, many more years before another substantial injection of cash comes our way. As their disastrous plans are implemented, and their funding proves to be woefully inadequate, the government will be forced to plough even more taxpayers’ money into Watford.
To use an old expression: It will be throwing good money after bad.
And we, the patients, will be the ones who suffer.
What is a judicial review and how will it help?
A judicial review will involve a court looking at the procedures followed by the authorities, and deciding if these were followed correctly. If not, the whole question of which option to choose (including the option of a new hospital) will be back on the table.
This is what we want.
Where are we up to?
Our application has gone into court, and we are awaiting the decision about whether we have a case to proceed.
What is wrong with the plans to upgrade Watford General Hospital?
Where do we start?
Apart from the obvious fact that the hospital is situated, geographically, at possibly the worst site in the West Herts Hospitals Trust area, and shares its campus with a Premier League football club, the buildings are in a disastrously unsafe and inadequate state. No amount of upgrading can bring them in line with the way a modern hospital should function.
The plans for the upgrade are bordering on the preposterous. By their own admission, the hospitals in the Trust area (which includes the rumps of Hemel Hempstead and St Albans that are left functioning) need at least £180 million spending on them for repairs only. It is clear to our building experts that the money left over would be nowhere near enough for the rebuilding and refurbishing the Trust is claiming it will do, and within a very short space of time they will be going cap in hand to the government for more of your money, all to be spent on that site which is so difficult for much of the local population to reach.
If they get the go ahead, where will we go for treatment during the rebuild?
They reckon they will keep Watford functioning during the works.
We reckon they will have major problems. Imagine being a patient, seriously ill, with the noise and dust of a building site going on around you. And how many consultants will allow dangerously ill patients to be cared for in those conditions?
The whole scheme is a disaster.
A new hospital, on a central site (and there is land available) could be built much faster, to excellent modern standards with all the right diagnostic equipment.
Wouldn’t this be more expensive?
No. For less than the amount of money that is going to have to be poured into Watford, we could build a fantastic new hospital that we could all get to.
What’s more, it would be much cheaper to run, because it would be efficient. At the moment, the Trust runs at a deficit of around £50 million a year. The new hospital would operate entirely within budget.
But it’s not just about money. It’s about the healthcare we, and our families, should all expect.
Why is it so vital that we go ahead with this?
Because we know IT’S NOW OR NEVER. If their scheme goes ahead, we are sentenced to endure the present hopeless set-up for many decades to come, with bed shortages, cancelled operations, queuing ambulances and a desperate struggle to get there, especially when the Premier League Watford Football Club is playing at home.
We have been fighting hard for decent hospital provision in West Herts. Two years ago we saw the top regulator in Parliament with representation from two local MPs.
Reports have suggested our work helped to get the last scheme thrown out.
We know we are fighting for what large numbers of you, the public in West Hertfordshire, want. There have been two petitions on Parliament’s website supporting a new hospital - each produced more than 10,000 signatures.
And this year we ran a public opinion survey using ‘Survey Monkey’.
Why did we have to run our own survey?
Because our local health bodies had not undertaken any systematic inquiry into public preferences as part of their planning for future, longer-term hospital provision. There had only been some highly-controlled public meetings with the emphasis on providing information rather than seeking views, and a hand-picked ‘stakeholder evaluation panel’ whose conclusions about a short-list were wrongly reported to the decision-making boards. That is not even serious ‘engagement’. Public engagement is meant to be a regular, ongoing process in the NHS. For significant change like this there must be full-blown public consultation with much more stringent requirements regarding involvement than for simple ‘engagement’. This was not attempted. The survey we ran was designed to draw public attention to this glaring omission.
What did the survey show?
More than 1,500 people responded.
- A whopping 97% of respondents wanted a new purpose-built hospital on a central, accessible site rather than the proposed plan to refurbish the site at Vicarage Road with some new build. More than three-quarters also wanted planned care to be on that kind of site too.
- Over 90% thought patient safety and good quality of care could NOT be assured if there was major refurbishment at the Watford site over many years.
- We wanted to know whether people thought the health authorities are doing enough to involve the public in these vital decisions. More than 96% answered a resounding ‘NO’!
- Most striking was that around two out of every three people who replied gave us their ‘stories’ or opinions in detail – not just tick-box answers. Many mentioned how difficult and often extremely costly it is to get to the Vicarage Road site, which is at the far end of our area and often very congested (one previous Medical Director said “No-one in their right mind would build an A+E hospital here”).
What was the official response?
We have limited resources and when we sent the results to the local health bodies we asked them to do a more detailed survey to get a full picture of what the public want. They refused, saying “We are aware of the views of local people on these issues”!
They could now easily mount a full public consultation process if the will was there. They argued that there was no time because they had to get their bid for funding in quickly before the government’s autumn spending review, covering several years. But that review has now been postponed amid the current political uncertainty. Was the time pressure just an excuse to avoid confronting the truth of widespread public alienation and despair regarding local hospital provision?
THEY ARE NOT LISTENING SO WE HAVE TO USE THE LAW. WE NEED FUNDS TO PAY OUR LEGAL EXPERTS WHO BELIEVE WE HAVE A GOOD CHANCE OF SUCCESS. PLEASE CAN YOU HELP?
Any donation, small or large, will be an investment in your and your family’s future.
What about the population changes?
The combined populations of the Dacorum district and the St Albans district, more than 325,000, dwarfs the 285,000 living in Watford and district.
What’s more, between the two areas of Dacorum and St Albans, the projected population growth is another 42,000, whilst Watford district is only projected to expand by 16,800. And the government has now chosen those two areas for one of five new garden towns across the country. Also land is available as never before.
All those extra families moving in! This shows that we need a central hospital that everyone, whether living in Watford, St. Albans or Dacorum can access easily, which is not the case at Vicarage Road as many of those replying to our survey told us in no uncertain terms.
What are the hospital planners thinking?
They should not be allowed to side line us. HELP US FIGHT. PLEASE GIVE AS MUCH AS YOU CAN. HELP US TO HELP YOU.
THE STORY OF THE ‘SOC’
Our healthcare bodies have finalised a plan which they are submitting to government in a bid to secure £350 million of public funds for the hospitals in West Herts (Watford General, Hemel Hempstead, and St Albans).
The plan is known as the Strategic Outline Case (SOC).The SOC entails spending 85% of the funds on Watford Hospital, with as little as 3% (£10 million) on Hemel Hempstead, and the rest on St Albans.
West Herts Hospitals Trust, the body that runs our hospitals, selected this plan out of four options, all of which concentrated the vast bulk of the finances on Watford General.
They rejected the possibility of a brand-new hospital, in a central location accessible to all patients, at an early stage, and resisted all attempts to get it back on the table.
They argue that a new A and E hospital is not possible within the budget constraints. We argue, with the support of eminent building and hospital costings professionals, that their plans are unworkable, will cost vastly more than they are estimating and that a new hospital would be both cost effective and beneficial to the health and welfare of patients.
In a flawed attempt at ‘stakeholder engagement’ they came up with a hand-picked ‘evaluation panel’ to assess the four options. It was Hobson’s choice, as not one of the options would provide the healthcare we need.
In the end, they chose the one that maximised the investment in Watford General Hospital, leaving very little for the other two hospitals.
We believe it was a done deal before they started, and that the whole evaluation process was geared to arrive at the conclusion that the maximum money and resources should flow to Watford.
Professor Ron Glatter, one of the leaders of our campaign, predicted as much four months before the decision was announced, when he confronted members of the West Herts Hospitals Trust at a public meeting.
‘Your options aren’t serious ones, ‘ he said, ‘The two site options based on planned care at either St Albans or Hemel Hempstead (options 2 and 3) aren’t serious because the third town (the one left out) would have nothing but an Urgent Treatment Centre and perhaps some outpatients.
‘You won’t go for the new site for a planned care hospital (option 4) because you’ll say it doesn’t leave enough funding to refurb Watford. So you are aiming to go for the so-called ‘3 site’ option (option one) which is a 2 site option dressed up as 3 site. 5,000 square metres for something called ‘planned medicine’ (at Hemel Hempstead) doesn’t make a hospital.
He predicted exactly what happened (although they have added another 3,000 square metres to the Hemel site, if we can believe them.).
The whole decision-making and ‘public engagement’ process leading to the ‘SOC’ was deeply flawed and a waste of public money.