Politicians have been calling a huge £400million investment in Watford General Hospital a grant, but it is likely the hospital will have to repay some of that funding.

In response to a question by Watford MP Dean Russell about whether the money for West Herts Hospitals Trust is a grant or a loan, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said it is a grant - and even repeated the word three times.

The money will be used to upgrade the trust's hospitals - Watford General Hospital, St Albans City Hospital and Hemel Hempstead Hospital.

Mr Hancock said in Parliament on January 27: "Watford General Hospital needs to be rebuilt and it will be rebuilt with a grant from the Government. The money will go to Watford general—to the trust—as he mentions.

"It will not be a loan; it will be a grant. I know that there ​has been some speculation about that. I do not know where it came from, but it is not true. The money will come as a grant."

The Health Secretary visited the Watford hospital in November last year, shortly after the government announced the trust would receive a £400 million investment.

Mr Russell also wrote in his column, published in the Watford Observer on February 7, the money would be a grant, not a loan.

But both the Department of Health and Social Care and the hospital trust have confirmed the £400 million is a source of funding called public dividend capital - which is comparable to an equity investment in the NHS trust.

The details and conditions of the investment have not yet been confirmed or revealed, but public dividend capital funding is not considered to be a free gift.

In the past, the NHS has been expected to pay the government a charge called a public dividend capital dividend, although repayments are often only required when the trust has surplus cash.

In a 2018/19 report, NHS Improvement wrote that a public dividend capital is a type of public sector equity finance and that "a charge, reflecting the cost of capital utilised by an NHS foundation trust, is payable to the Department of Health and Social Care as the public dividend capital dividend".

Likewise, Lord Norman Warner said in the House of Lords in October 2003 that with public dividend funding, the NHS trust is expected to pay back a "notional cost of servicing", stressing it does not represent the repayment of debt. He added repayments are only made when the trust has surplus cash.