Watford mayor on hospital plans: 'NHS trust should be moving as quickly as they can' (From Watford Observer)
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Watford's mayor Dorothy Thornhill on hospital plans: 'West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust should be moving as quickly as they can'
Watford’s elected mayor has expressed frustration at the pace of efforts to build a new hospital, but said plans cannot be rushed to ensure it is done right.
Liberal Democrat Mayor Dorothy Thornhill has said she and the town’s Conservative MP are currently well placed to lobby the coalition Government to support the rebuild Watford General Hospital and health campus scheme.
However she also said the trust needed to address its financial issues and also make sure it took full advantage of the opportunity to redesign health services in the town.
Her comments come after the Watford Observer revealed last week the health trust in charge of Watford General, West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, was headed for debts of up to £30 million.
The trust has already delayed its application for foundation status, which would give it the financial independence vital to rebuilding the hospital. The financial stability of health trusts is a key criterion for attaining foundation station.
This week Mayor Thornhill said: "To be honest, I think the most important thing at the moment is for the hospital to get itself sorted. There is new management in place and there have been some significant changes, not just the chief executive but also the chairman of the trust as well. There is work to be done and we want to support them.
"What we don’t want is in 10 years the chief executive saying ‘if only we had known what we had wanted and if only we had done that’.
"They will have to deal with whichever government is in power. What frustrates me is that the MP and I are in a good position to lobby for them and they should be taking advantage of that and should be moving as quickly as they can.
"The new chief executive has inherited a hospital that needs some work but she is astonishingly experienced, determined and in it for the long haul."
Bosses at the health trust are currently drawing up new plans for the hospital rebuild, which will are due to be released to the public in the autumn.
Meanwhile the health campus scheme, which will see the area behind Vicarage Road redeveloped with 600 new homes, new businesses as well as hospital buildings, is continuing with Watford Borough Council compulsory purchasing the land.
The project became embroiled in controversy as last year it emerged the Farm Terrace allotments would be built on as part of the scheme.
The 117-year-old plots were initially protected in an earlier scheme but Watford politicians said the current partnership with developers Kier needed the extra land to be economically viable.
In May the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, Eric Pickles, granted Watford Borough Council’s application for permission to build on the allotments.
A group of Farm Terrace allotment holders have since challenged the decision and applied to take it to judicial review.
With the other parts of the health campus progressing, Mayor Thornhill said they were just waiting for the health trust to decide exactly what they want to do with their site.
She added: "With the health campus they are not quite in a position what they want, where and when. If you imagine the site they have to tell us which bits they want and we’ll put a fence round it. Then we’ll get on with our bits and they’ll get on with their bits.
"We will get there. It may take longer than we may have anticipated but we don’t want to feel we have missed an opportunity to get what she (Ms Jones) wants."
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