A local campaign has raised more than £25,000 to fight for a new hospital for West Herts.
The group, West Herts 21C Hospital Solution, are opposing plans by healthcare managers to ‘squander millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money on the dilapidated buildings at Watford General’.
The local hospitals trust, backed by Herts Valley Clinical Commissioning Group, are making a bid to the NHS for £350 million, almost all of which will be spent refurbishing and rebuilding bits of the failing buildings at Watford. The St Albans Hospital site will get £30 million, and a derogatory £20 million is allocated to improve Hemel Hempstead Hospital.
The campaigners claim this money will provide nothing more than a temporary stop gap, with the plans disastrously flawed and the calculation of costs involved completely unrealistic. The hospital buildings are in such poor repair that, by the admission of the Trust, more than £180 million is needed simply to make them safe and useable.
‘This is a short-term solution at best and over the next few years many more millions will have to be spent,’ said Clive Birch, of the campaigning group.
The group are raising funds to pay experts to work on a detailed case to prove that a brand new hospital, on a clear site that the whole of West Herts can access, would provide massively better patient care, be much cheaper because it would run efficiently ( at present the West Herts Hospital Trust runs an annual deficit of £50 million), and would come on stream far faster than the proposed new buildings and refurbishment at Watford.
It would also save patients, staff and visitors years of disruption as building works are carried out at the Watford Hospital. The main building that houses wards is not due for rebuilding and patients will be treated there surrounded by the noise and dust of the building works.
‘It makes such obvious sense that what we need is a new hospital, and there is no sensible financial argument against it,’ said Clive.
With the money raised so far the group has commissioned the top hospital architects in Britain, BDP, and expert hospital costings consultants, RLB, to provide the case they will present to the NHS in the autumn.
Plans to allocate the funds to this area are on hold until March 2020, as the government’s Autumn Spending Review has been postponed because of the upheaval within the government and the whole country over Brexit.
The campaigning group will present their plans first to local MPs, and then to the Department of Health.
Funds have been raised by public meetings, door to door delivery of flyers and street stands.
But the group have also had some fun. In July 124 people attended a fund-raising gig at Northchurch Social Centre, with a live band, The Offbeats, providing music, and hot food and a bar, as well as a raffle and a cake auction. It raised a substantial amount for the kitty.
The group, which works very closely with the Hemel Hempstead based New Hospital Campaign, and has support across St Albans as well as the whole of Dacorum, still needs to raise a few thousand pounds for the full package they want to take to government.
You can support by contributing to the bank account West Herts 21C Hospital Solution, sort code 30-90-99, account number 28468468.