Public Health


Government backs trust decision to redevelop A&E rather than build new hospital

The government has said a petition calling for a new A&E hospital to be built for Watford, Hemel Hempstead, and St Albans, as opposed to developing the current Watford General Hospital (WGH), is a “a matter for local determination,” thus reinforcing plans to develop the current building.

The 10,000-strong petition called on West Hertfordshire Hospital Trust (WHHT) to amend its Strategic Outline Case to include the “most sensible, popular and cost-effective” option by building a new emergency unit at a more accessible location than the current services at Vicarage Road.

WHHT has already approved plans to redevelop the current site at Watford General into an A&E hospital — yet locals who will be using the services have complained of issues such as the hospital’s sharp slope making it difficult to walk towards, and the building’s close vicinity to Premier League football club Watford FC making the area crowded and difficult to travel to.

The petition claimed building a new A&E central to West Hertfordshire could be delivered earlier (Watford General’s renovation would be completed in 2030), cost less, be less disruptive to Watford General’s current services, and provide better long-term acute care for the whole of West Herts.

Yet the Department of Health and Social Care has today argued that Herts Valley CCG has gone through a lengthy engagement process with the public and believes decisions of this kind are “best made by the local NHS, who can best assess how to meet the needs of people in their area.”

In 2007 a consultation found that the A&E unit — which was then at Hemel Hempstead General Hospital — would be better located in WGH. The unit was then moved to WGH three years later.

Since then, a CCG review “confirmed the outcome” of the 2007 consultation and Herfordshire County Council Scrutiny Committee, NHS England’s regional office, and the West Essex STP supported this view.

The response said: “The government is clear that all service changes should be based on clear evidence that they will deliver better outcomes for patients. Decisions on configuration are best made by the local NHS, who can best assess how to meet the needs of people in their area.

“For any significant system reconfiguration, we expect all local parts of the system to be talking to the public and stakeholders regularly; it is vital that people can shape the future of their local services.”

All significant service change is subject to a full public consultation and proposals must meet the government’s four reconfiguration tests.

These are support from clinical commissioners, clarity on the clinical evidence base, robust patient and public engagement and support for patient choice.

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Image credit: Steve Parsons/PA Archive/PA Images


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