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Response to claim re loss of services at St Albans City Hospital

Posted: 5 July 2021

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The proposals affecting changes to services moving from or to St Albans City Hospital are part of wider plans to strengthen and streamline services across hospitals in Hemel Hempstead, St Albans and Watford.

The proposals are being developed alongside rebuild and refurbishment plans. West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is in line to receive significant funding for its three hospitals through the national New Hospital Programme. The starting point of the proposals (which have been the subject of a public engagement programme beginning in February 2021) is for each of the hospitals to have a more clearly defined role. Emergency, inpatient and complex care will remain at Watford General Hospital; Hemel Hempstead Hospital will be the centre for planned medical care and long term conditions and St Albans City Hospital will be the centre for planned surgery and cancer care. Urgent care services and some outpatient services will be provided at all three sites.

Diagnostic facilities will be significantly upgraded at all three hospitals and the latest digital technology will be incorporated.

The trust is one of eight in a priority list out of a group of 48 in the New Hospital Programme. Senior clinical staff, together with architects, service managers and construction and cost experts are working on an ‘outline business case’ that will set out a range of options in much more detail. It will be finalised and made public later this year or early next. Work could start as early as 2023. A new multi storey car park which was in train before the New Hospital Programme was established – is being built at Watford General and is set to open in early 2022.

All of the redevelopment options, which range from minimal cost to 90% of buildings at the Watford site being new, see the three sites being retained and their purpose as set out above.

Overall, there will be no loss of service for residents in west Hertfordshire. In fact, under the proposals there will be in increase in inpatients beds, a significant investment in diagnostics, an expanded emergency department and a higher ratio of single occupancy inpatient rooms.

Commenting on concerns that St Albans is losing more services than it gains, deputy chief executive Helen Brown said: “We are very proud of our plans for St Albans City Hospital and of the significant input they had had from our senior clinical teams.

“Reinforcing the hospital’s focus on surgery and building on its provision of cancer care, with a boost to its diagnostic facilities, will result in quicker results at worrying times and a far better experience for our patients. Our planned endoscopy service will have far better facilities and more space on this site and a new outpatient hub for spinal and orthopaedic services will save patients having to travel to more than one site for this service. There will also be new operating theatres.

“Growing the volume and complexity of our surgery there means that we have more consultants on hand, better training for staff and less likelihood of cancellations due to absence. Also, providing surgery at St Albans means that appointments and procedures are not blown off course by the kinds of pressures that come with being on a busy acute hospital site, such as theatres being needed for emergency surgery. The separation also provides some protection against outbreaks because it is easier to implement infection control measures for planned services.

“We are also planning to strengthen support services for patients with a cancer diagnosis and to rework our services so that we are providing several steps on a treatment pathway in one appointment.”

“The hospital provides services across west Herts and so it’s important to remember that it will be used by patients from Dacorum, Watford, Three Rivers and beyond. Likewise, residents from St Albans may need to travel to other hospitals to receive specialist care if it is not provided locally. Our motivation is always to provide the best and safest care and this is not always the nearest. This does mean that some services currently based at St Albans will move to our other sites. Given that the reason for this is to provide the highest quality of care possible, we hope that residents will accept that travelling the extra miles is worthwhile.”

The intention is to reduce travel to Watford because the majority of outpatient services and diagnostics will be provided at either St Albans or Hemel Hempstead hospitals. Patients should only need to come to Watford as outpatients if they need a specialist appointment or to use facilities that are only available at this site. And many appointments previously conducted in person will transfer to being online (where clinically appropriate).

Ms Brown added: “We have seen reports that 18 different services are moving from St Albans – we don’t recognise these figures and would encourage local people to look at our engagement documents which set out our proposals service by service and site by site.”

The proposed changes to the minor injuries unit at St Albans City Hospital could see the service there expand to care for patients with urgent illness-related problems. An engagement on this runs from 18 June to 1 August and is being led by Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (HVCCG). A spokesperson said: “We are currently engaging with the public on what type of urgent care service to provide at St Albans City Hospital. This is separate from wider hospital redevelopment work.

“We want people to know that we are not seeking to cut urgent care services available at St Albans City Hospital. We want to improve what we have and provide an urgent care service at the hospital that supports patients well into the future, sitting alongside other available services.”

More information on proposals for services at the trust’s three sites can be found here and detail on the engagement relating to the minor injuries unit is here.


  1. For more information, please contact West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust communications team on: 01923 436280 or email: Out of hours, please call 07900 228031.
  2. West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust serves people from across Hertfordshire, north London and further afield. It operates from three hospitals; Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead. The trust has a catchment area of over 500,000 people and is one of the largest employers locally, with around 5,000 staff and volunteers.
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