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Campaigners bring legal action against clinical commissioning group in bid for new hospital

A clinical commissioning group is facing legal action from a local campaign group which, unusually, objects to three hospitals being kept open.

The New Hospital Campaign wants a purpose-built hospital instead, and argues that plans to spend £350m to upgrade those at Watford General, Hemel Hempstead, and St Albans are misguided as the buildings are beyond viable repair.

It is seeking to crowdfund the money needed to take the matter to judicial review.

A Herts Valleys CCG spokesperson said: “We have been served with a claim for a judicial review in relation to West Herts Hospitals Trust’s plans for hospital redevelopment – plans which the CCG approved at a board meeting in public in July.

“Herts Valleys CCG is reviewing the claim with our legal advisers and will be lodging a response with the court shortly”.

The trust said when it unveiled the £350m plan in July that all three hospitals would be retained, with a “major transformation” of the Watford General site and significant investment in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans hospitals.

Previous bids had been rejected as unaffordable by the NHS and the trust had been told to develop a plan that came in at no more than £350m.

There would be a new clinical building at Watford General to house theatres, critical care, women’s and children's services and refurbishment of the rest of the buildings.

Hemel Hempstead would become a centre for people with long term conditions with additional primary care and community services, while St Albans would gain a cancer and surgical centre with an enhanced high dependency care unit to allow more complex cases to be undertaken.

Chief executive Christine Allen said: “We have engaged widely and while we recognise that some communities would like a new hospital, we have chosen the option we believe is most likely to secure funding.”

But the campaign group argued that the trust’s plans are unworkable.

It said: “Our local health chiefs are going for a hopeless patch-up scheme of the decrepit and unsafe buildings of Watford General Hospital.

“There will be very little money left over for the hospitals at Hemel Hempstead and St Albans.”

The group said Watford’s current hospital was poorly located, as it shares a site with a Premier League football ground, and its buildings “are in a disastrously unsafe and inadequate state”.

Construction experts had advised the group that the trust’s claims about costs “simply do not stack up” and that a new hospital in central Watford would be cheaper, it said.

The group said it would seek judicial review because “this process was flawed from the outset.

“We need to stop them before the money is allocated. If they are given this large sum and they spend it on Watford, it will be many, many more years before another substantial injection of cash comes our way. As their disastrous plans are implemented, and their funding proves to be woefully inadequate, the government will be forced to plough even more taxpayers’ money into Watford.”

Mark Smulian

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