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Watford General Hospital 'staying put' says town's MP
Watford will continue to have the main hospital for the area following an upcoming health services shake-up, the town’s MP has pledged.
The Conservative MP also reiterated that the Government was fully committed to regenerating the hospital and was just waiting for the health trust to finalise its plans.
Earlier this year an executive from West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust said extensive discussions were going on about the future of the hospital and it was not "absolutely certain" it would remain in Watford.
The trust later issued a statement saying key services such as A&E and the maternity unit would "undoubtedly" stay in Watford after it finished drawing up its new clinical strategy.
Addressing the issue in a statement on his website, Mr Harrington said: "Firstly, Watford General Hospital is staying put, and will remain the main Hospital in South West Hertfordshire. I know there has been some scepticism about this since the UKIP mayoral candidate outlined his key pledges last month, and said that if elected he would look at moving the Hospital to a location more central to St Albans and Hemel Hempstead.
"However I will not let this happen and it has been confirmed by the NHS Trust who are responsible for delivering our health services that key services will ‘undoubtedly’ stay at Watford and this includes maternity care and our A&E."
The MP went on to list a number of improvements the Government had funded at Watford General such as its new birthing and maternity centre and a new link road.
Mr Harrington’s intervention comes as the issue of the hopsital’s regeneration is starting to become a key battleground in the forthcoming General Election campaign.
Last week the Labour parliamentary candidate, Matt Turmaine, launched a petition calling on the Government to step in and fund the hospital’s regeneration directly as the uncertainty remains over the redevelopment.
Plans to rebuild Watford General have been underway for more than a decade under the health campus project, which also aims to redevelop the land behind Vicarage.
A number of different initiatives and proposals have been drawn up under the banner of the health campus. The latest will see a larger number of new homes, up to 750, built than initially envisaged and the Farm Terrace Allotments sacrificed for the development.
However it is unclear what will happen to Watford General Hospital as the health trust has delayed unveiling its Clinical Strategy until as late as mid-2015.
Meanwhile the trust slipped into financial trouble and the hospital is dealing with a number of care issues after it failed five out of six categories in its latest Care Quality Commission inspection.
In his statement Mr Harrington added: "A key part of the long term plan is the Clinical Strategy which is currently being compiled. Essentially the Trust have gone out to nurses, doctors, midwives, patient representatives and others, and have asked for their opinion on how healthcare should be delivered locally, and what they would like to see. Once these views are received the Trust will formulate a rough picture of what the clinical staff would like taking into account different views and priorities.
"Once this has been refined, which will no doubt be with further input from staff at Watford, the Clinical Strategy will be put forward as a proposal. The Health Secretary confirmed when he visited Watford General that he is ready and waiting for this to happen.
"Importantly the Clinical Strategy will include provision for the Health Campus development, which will lead to the regeneration of West Watford. The plans for the Health Campus have been outlined and will include not just new healthcare facilities but also more green space, new homes, new services including shops and community facilities, and more jobs. This teamed with the new train station which I have secured for Vicarage Road as part of the Government’s investment into Croxley Rail Link, will mean a much brighter future for West Watford.
"Once the Trust report with their Clinical Strategy we will know more about the long term investment and new facilities which will happen at Watford General. But, in the meantime, work and investment is continuing, and the Government continue to invest in Watford General and we will see more improvements over the next 12 months. During this time I will continue to work closely with Samantha Jones, the Chief Executive of our NHS Trust, who is doing an excellent job so far."
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