• Campaign group recruits hospital architect BDP 
  • Residents call for a new acute general hospital in West Hertfordshire
  • But trust bosses say it is unaffordable 

West Hertfordshire residents have commissioned architects to draw up plans for a new hospital amid concerns over the local health system’s “piecemeal” proposals.

Campaign group West Herts 21st Century Hospital Solution has recruited hospital architect BDP to produce plans for a new acute general hospital “they believe West Herts needs”.

Last week West Hertfordshire Trust and Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group board members met to discuss four shortlisted options for the redevelopment of the three hospitals in the area.

The options included refurbishments at Hemel Hempstead Hospital, St Albans Community Hospital and Watford General Hospital or a new planned care centre for the area.

However, despite ongoing pressure from campaigners to build a new acute hospital in the area, health bosses have maintained it would be unaffordable.

During Thursday’s joint meeting members showed “indicative support” for “option one” – which would include “significant investment” in Watford General Hospital, upgrades to surgery at St Albans and the consolidation of the Hemel Hempstead site.

The trust and CCG plan on bidding for £350 million of central government funding later this year to fund the refurbishments.

However, campaigners say building a new acute hospital would be “financially feasible and far preferable to existing plans to carry out piecemeal repairs”.

Lead campaigner Gordon Yearwood said the trust and CCG’s plans have “willfully disregarded” the needs of the population.

He said: “If they are given the £350 million they are asking the government for, they will squander it on piecemeal repairs and refurbishment at Watford, they will have very little left for St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, and they will continue to run at this appalling deficit, which taxpayers have to pick up every year. We say this fails on ‘affordability and sustainability’.

“We want a new hospital that comes within its budget every year. Most importantly, we want a great hospital for patients and staff.”

So far more than half of the £38,000 need to fund the architect has been raised through crowdfunding and donations – however BDP has already started work on plans due to “time constraints”.

Initial plans for the hospitals’ configuration, known as the strategic outline case, were not supported by NHS Improvement and NHS England “in its original form” in 2017 as they were deemed “unaffordable”.

The trust and CCG were advised that acute redevelopment schemes are only approved when the total cost of the project does not exceed the trust’s annual turnover.

Following this week’s meeting the trust and CCG are expected to decide “the best way forward” and submit a strategic outline case to regulators by late July.

Chair of West Hertfordshire Hospitals Trust, Phil Townsend, said: “These are exciting times – we are closer to securing a major investment than we have been for a long time.

“Whilst we would always be happy with more money, we recognise that anything in the region of £350m will make a huge difference to the experience of our patients and staff across west Hertfordshire.”