Well done to the Watford Observer for their excellent coverage in last week’s edition on the news that West Herts Hospital Trust have ruled out a building a brand new A&E hospital due to affordability (New hospital blocked, February 1).

READ MORE: Hopes for new hospital sunk

As a supporter of the campaign for a new and more accessible A&E hospital for West Herts, I was very surprised to read that the cost mentioned in the article for building a new acute services hospital was estimated as being at least £800 million! Where has this figure been plucked from? Originally the trust estimated over a £1 billion pounds for a new A&E hospital, now a figure of £800 million has been thrown into the hat. It appears to be no more than a finger in the air job and your readers shouldn’t be thinking that this is what other trusts have paid for their brand new A&E hospitals.

One example is the 670-bed Midland Metropolitan acute services hospital currently being built for Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospital Trust on a clear brownfield site. This hospital was estimated to cost between £300 and 350 million before the demise of the constructor, Carillion. It will be completed in 2022 for both current and future generations to benefit from. 670 beds is also around the same number of beds that the trust require for a redeveloped Watford General Hospital.

To give another example, The Queen Elizabeth Teaching Hospital in Birmingham, which has over 1,200 beds (more than double that of the current WGH), cost £545 million in 2010. Even taking into account inflation, the QEH would not cost anywhere near £800 million in today’s money.

Until a parcel of land is identified on which the trust are confident they would build a new A&E hospital no accurate costing can be made for purchasing the land, for any additional infrastructure required that is not already included in the purchase of the land and for the physical build of the hospital.

Regarding the cost of the infrastructure, this will also depend on whether other developments are being considered to accompany the building of a hospital (ie housing or shops etc) and the expertise of the trust’s negotiating teams. To add to this, it should be more straightforward to calculate an accurate final cost for a new build on a clear site because any major redevelopment of Watford General Hospital will probably unearth, as work is carried out, many problems and challenges that were not foreseen or provided for and which could not only substantially raise the final cost of redevelopment but also significantly prolong the duration of the works.

In the trust’s own words, they only have £350 million to spend despite their original estimates for the redevelopment of Watford General Hospital being in excess of £600 million. The six facet survey shows that they need to spend at least £120 million on WGH just to keep it operational and functionally stable over the next decade.The trust are also saying that they are looking at either redeveloping their other hospital sites or building a new planned care unit between St Albans and Hemel Hempstead costing an estimated £180 million. That won’t leave very much money for any new buildings or for increasing the capacity of Vicarage Road.

What should also concern Watford residents, as well as the rest of West Herts, is the number of years that West Herts’ only A&E hospital will be a construction site. Certainly not a pleasant thought for those working or being treated at the hospital whilst the demolition and construction work is going on all around them.

In my opinion anyone celebrating Tuesday’s announcement as good news has little vision as to what will be needed in West Herts over the next 20 years and beyond. They need to bear in mind that West Herts will have an estimated population growth of around 150,000 residents over the next 15 years.

The fight for a new A&E hospital for West Herts hasn’t ended. My petition, calling for the government to fund a new NHS A&E hospital for West Herts, is still open until May. I urge your readers to sign it. and share the link - it may be the only way we can get our politicians to listen!


Andy Love

By email