Watford Health Campus: 'Questions need to be answered', says parliamentary candidate (From Watford Observer)
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Watford Health Campus: 'Questions need to be answered', says Watford's Labour parliamentary candidate Matt Turmaine
Watford’s Labour parliamentary candidate has said serious questions need to be answered about the Watford Health Campus.
Matt Turmaine, who is also a Watford Borough councillor for Holywell, said he wanted to know how the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust planned to make significant savings and recruit more staff while applying for foundation status.
The trust has delayed its bid to become a foundation hospital, which would give it the financial independence needed to take part in the health campus regeneration scheme, due to its financial situation.
Mr Turmaine said: "First of all there are questions that need to be answered by the trust. They have debt, they have to make sure patient care is not under threat and recruit more nurses while saving £15 million.
"They (Watford’s elected mayor and MP) have battened down the hatches in preparation for the election as they realise it is not working in the current format.
"If I was the MP I would have been lobbying the government for the last three years as we need them to back the hospital."
The original health campus plan, which was drawn up in 2007, aimed to build a new 600-bed hospital via a private finance initiative.
However the plan was scrapped after the credit crunch and PFIs have since been dropped by the government as a method building infrastructure projects as they are considered too expensive for the public sector.
Since then Watford Borough Council has drawn up a new scheme where it has partnered with construction company Kier to develop the health campus.
The new proposals will see 600 new homes and new businesses build on the land behind Vicarage Road, as well as new hospital buildings.
The new scheme became embroiled in controversy last year when it emerged the formerly protected Farm Terrace Allotments would being built on.
Council bosses argued the allotment land was needed to make the new scheme economically viable.
However plot holders are currently challenging the Government’s decision to allow the land to be used in the health campus via a judicial review.
At present the hospital trust is drawing up a new clinical strategy, which will determine how Watford General will be rebuilt in the scheme.
Earlier this year health secretary Jeremy Hunt said the government would have to see what the trust’s plans were before looking at financial support.
Mr Turmaine argued the government should be more forthcoming with financial backing for the new hospital.
He added: "I would say the government should be funding it. I would not go so far as to say it should be a PFI scheme or that scheme as I only have access to public data."
Responding to Mr Turmaine’s comments, a spokesperson for the Trust said: "Our quality and cost improvement plan for 2013/14 is £15 million and this is based on a total annual turnover of £284 million.
"Our quality and cost improvement plan will not impact on our nursing numbers. In fact, we are in the process of recruiting 149 additional nurses (whole time equivalent) at a cost of £3.9 million (per year).
"Our foundation trust application was temporarily delayed in the autumn of 2012 in agreement with our primary care trust and strategic health authority. We are now in the process of developing a revised clinical strategy which, combined with updated financial modelling, will allow us to agree a new timetable for achieving foundation trust status."
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