I would like the opportunity to respond to the Watford Observer's comment in the June 21 edition, which said that perhaps now is the time for new hospital campaigners to back West Herts Hospital Trust's hospital redevelopment plans.

It must be remembered that new hospital campaigners are members of the west Herts community who have come together solely because they believe that a new A&E hospital for west Herts is a superior and affordable alternative to the redevelopment plans being relentlessly pursued by the trust and CCG.

Spending £350 million on a partial redevelopment of the hospitals trust's estate is, in new hospital campaigners' opinion, both flawed and shortsighted. All three current hospitals are dilapidated and way past their best. We need a long-term solution for the whole of West Herts that not only offers the best facilities and buildings but can cope with a soaring population. Simon Stevens, the CEO of NHS England, has just been reported as saying that the cutting back of hospital beds has gone too far and now needs to be reversed. The last CQC report for the trust shows the number of beds standing at 676. The trust has calculated that it will need anything between 850 and 1170 beds by 2036. Only a new A&E hospital for West Herts will achieve the right number of beds, in the right places and with the right number of single bed rooms.

I would also like to make the point that the new hospital campaign is not calling for a hospital on a specific site. There are a number of possible locations for a new A&E hospital and some of these are on the outskirts of Watford.

Regarding the hospital redevelopment plans - the three current dilapidated hospital sites are an unknown quantity regarding what will be found as they try to construct, reconstruct and freshly clad old concrete and steel structures and underground services. New hospital campaigners believe that the final cost of such a complex and potentially highly disruptive redevelopment of the trust's estate will be much higher than the £350 million that the Trust say they are limited to.

The trust and CCG say that a new A&E hospital is not affordable but have not been open to discussing how they arrived at their figures. In 2017 the trust costed a new hospital at over £1 billion, at the beginning of this year it was reduced to between £700 million and 750 million and at their last public meeting these figures apparently have dropped again to between £600 million and £700 million. This also raises the question why the trust and CCG didn't show more interest in the new A&E hospital option back in 2017 when they submitted their previous strategic outline case for plans to redevelop only Watford General Hospital and St Albans City Hospital for £710 million! Quite remarkable!

Despite sharing examples of other trusts who are building or looking to build new A&E hospitals for around £350 million, the trust and CCG suggest West Herts is unique and campaigners are wrong to draw comparisons with these trusts. These trusts, including the Princess Alexandra Hospital NHS Trust in Harlow, have stated that they are building or looking to build new hospitals because they can deliver a new build on a clear site earlier than redevelopment, achieve operational benefits and savings earlier, they want to keep their clients and staff safely away from the building works, they want their hospitals to be in the most central location to the community they serve and with the potential to expand with population growth. They also want to future proof their investment by designing and building them to meet current and future NHS or environmental standards.

Now the hospitals trust's draft strategic outline case has been published, the local politicians and members of the two local health boards may hope that campaigners throw in the towel, but they are wrong. There is a lot that campaigners are doing and can still do to get the new hospital West Herts residents deserve - I was talking to someone I met whilst out walking and she said to me "Please don't give up - if we get a new A&E hospital, the people of west Herts will be forever grateful!"

This is the message and support campaigners are still picking up and which keeps us going!

Andrew Love,

St Albans