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Trust board approves redevelopment options at west Hertfordshire hospitals

Posted: 31 May 2022

Picture of redevelopment proposals

Today the board of West Hertfordshire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (WHTH) took another step forward in its path towards new and better buildings. Board members approved preferred options for a large new emergency hospital on land next to Watford General Hospital and some new hospital buildings and significant refurbishment at Hemel Hempstead Hospital and St Albans City Hospital.

The preferred options for redevelopment were Option 6 for Watford General Hospital (including a replacement of the Princess Michael of Kent building and not a refurbishment) and Option 3 for its hospitals in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans which would result in a wide range of improvements.

The next step for WHTH is to complete an outline business case (OBC) setting out detailed cost and implementation plans. The OBC will be submitted to the New Hospital Programme (NHP) and the Treasury for a funding decision, with the hope that construction would start in 2024 and that new and refurbished buildings would be open within the following few years.

Before moving onto agreeing preferred options choices for each of the trust’s three hospital sites this morning, board members re-confirmed their decision of 2020 when the board had ruled out the possibility of a new (non-Watford) site. This decision was taken after the board had considered the site option shortlist in light of a number of factors that have emerged over the last 18 months.

These are set out in the shortlist options review paper in agenda item 5.2 on page 40 of the board papers which can be found here.

As well as cost implications linked to changes at a national level to the timeline, the requirement to achieve lower hospital occupancy rates (to improve the experience for patients) means that more beds must be provided and this in turn affects design and subsequently cost.

Lessons learned from the Covid-19 pandemic, together with the increased emphasis on net zero carbon and standardised approaches to construction have also had an impact.

Deputy chief executive Helen Brown explained: "In light of some recent changes and also acknowledging the weight of the decisions being made today, we wanted to ensure that the board could make an informed decision.

“Our papers set out new external factors as well as one issue that has remained the same – the speed with which new and improved buildings are needed. This steered our thinking in 2020 and has been the overriding factor again today.

"We ruled out a new site option previously because it would add delay at best and at worst could fail to deliver altogether. That reasoning is even more compelling now because our buildings have deteriorated further. At the same time, our plans to solve this situation have progressed thanks to the huge contribution of our senior clinicians to our proposals and the support we’ve had so far from planning authorities. In other words, the need for new and improved buildings in the shortest time possible has grown, as has our ability to do something about it by pressing ahead with our approved options."

The board papers for today’s meeting were made available for longer than usual so that interested stakeholders had additional time to look at the information the board was considering.

A feedback form was created to gather views on the papers and there was also the opportunity to submit written representations. A range of views were expressed showing both support for and opposition to the recommendations to the board. Further detail, including the trust’s response can be found here.

WHTH chairman Phil Townsend said: "We understand that some dissatisfaction remains. We do listen to local people who oppose our plans but we have to weigh those views against a vast amount of clinical, technical and financial information. The question of where to locate emergency hospital services draws such a wide range of views that it is impossible to please everyone. Our hope is that in time, people will understand that we are acting in the best interests of patient safety. And there simply isn’t any higher priority than that.

“With every passing month our buildings become harder and more costly to maintain. This would be a worry for any organisation but when you consider that we are in the business of caring for unwell and vulnerable people of all ages and for women giving birth, the responsibility to deliver a solution quickly is huge.

"It was clear from the discussion today that we cannot and will not accept the delay that re-opening the search for a new site would present.

“Our board takes its accountability seriously and is not prepared to prolong the risk posed to patients and staff by working from ageing buildings. We are more determined than ever to secure the investment needed to make the options we have approved today a reality."

In response to comments in the feedback that any decision should be delayed because of changes in the leadership team, he said: "Decisions on the strategic future of the trust do not rest with individuals, they are taken by the board with the best interests of patients at the forefront of our minds. Whilst some of the faces around the board table may have changed or may be about to change, the stated and collective intention of our board to deliver new and better buildings in the shortest time possible remains the same."

  1. For more information, please contact the communications team on: 01923 436280 or email: For out of hours media enquiries please call the Watford General Hospital switchboard on 01923 244366 and ask for the on call communications manager.
  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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