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Steps toward agreeing future of hospital services

Issued: 4 October 2016

Major steps were taken today towards agreeing the future of hospital services in west Hertfordshire.

Picture of the Your Care, Your Future logoAbout 80 stakeholders – including patient representatives and local clinicians – gathered to hear about and discuss the options that are being taken forward.

Following a period where we have analysed different options and had extensive and detailed discussions with groups of local people, we have decided to take forward an approach that retains services on the existing Watford and St Albans sites, carrying out redevelopment on both of them, with as much new build as we can achieve and with the possibility of a complete rebuild at Watford.

The people who came to our meeting today heard about the process we have undertaken to get to this point which included convening panels to evaluate all the 14 options against a set of agreed criteria. Criteria covered issues such as: how easy sites would be to travel to by car and public transport; how the experience of patients would be affected if we were able to build entirely new facilities; and what would be the practical difficulties to overcome in getting the option delivered.

We invited patient representatives from all our four areas of west Hertfordshire to sit on these evaluation panels and they had a full scoring role. We also wanted to get the views of other local people so we ran a survey and 600 people took part. A series of other meetings took place to hear more about what people thought.

Following the analysis of options against criteria we examined the likely costs of the different approaches and were mindful of the current financial climate and the low levels of capital funding likely to be forthcoming. We have decided to take forward to the next stage the approach that gives people better facilities on the Watford and St Albans sites, with as much of as this as possible being newly built.

Some stakeholders wanted us to pursue the option for a new hospital on a ‘greenfield’ site near junction 20 of the M25. Work we have carried out so far suggests that this would not be the best way forward either in terms of costs or other benefits such as travel times, but we are going to do some additional analysis in the coming weeks to review some of the data and costs in order to be sure we are right not to include this option in the next stage of the process.

During the meeting a patient representative from each of the four areas covered by Herts Valleys CCG was asked to say a few words about the engagement process from their perspective. The vast majority spoke very positively, even those who personally favoured another option.

One of the patient representatives, Robert Hillyard, said: “For some time it has become apparent that there are strong views held by some patient representatives on the preferred outcome of the study. It has been my personal observation that those conducting the study have taken a great deal of care to ensure that representations from these groups have been listened to and their suggestions….taken into the study. They have also been given considerable airtime to make their points at each stage of the options evaluation exercise. This is as it should be.”

Another patient representative, Helen Clothier, said: “I have participated in the panels which have been really interesting. I have been surprised at how complicated it all is – much more than you’d expect. It has been really good to be involved.”

Dr Nicolas Small, Chair of Herts Valleys CCG, said: “I am pleased that we are making progress and that we have got something we can take forward to the next crucial stage. In order to be in a position to make a case for some essential capital investment, we need a credible and realistic plan. I really think we have one here and I am glad. I understand that this might be disappointing for those who were hoping for a hospital on a different site - but I hope everyone can rally behind the approach and all work together to achieve the best we can for the people of west Hertfordshire.”

Katie Fisher, Chief Executive of WHHT, said: “Healthcare is an emotive subject – even more so when considering big questions about the future of hospital services. Throughout this process there has been a wide range of views heard. Your Care, Your Future has many stakeholders with different geographical, political and professional interests. Now is the time to focus on what we have in common – we want the best possible health services and facilities for patients in west Hertfordshire that can be afforded. We need to put aside differences and focus on delivering the solution. The sooner we commit to a shared vision, the better our chances of securing central government support. If we can’t unite behind one option we run the risk of finding ourselves at the back of a very long queue for precious NHS funding. We must not let that happen.”