Hospital bosses have been told only to focus on redevelopment plans that can be delivered by 2025, it has emerged.

NHS chiefs have given West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust a number of options they want to see on their shortlist - but no options include plans for a new purpose-built hospital on a new site.

The failure by the NHS to specify that the option of a new hospital be included in a shortlist has concerned some campaigners.

Campaigners have hit back claiming that a new hospital could be delivered more quickly than redevelopment of Watford General Hospital.

In response, bosses at the hospital trust have stressed that the option of a new hospital is still being considered.

But the trust says it will not know until the autumn – after all options have been subjected to the same "rigorous" process – whether a new hospital will be on the shortlist of options, or not.

Bosses at the trust, which operates Watford General, St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, have potentially as much as £590 million from the government to spend on its facilities.

Watford Observer:

As part of the continuing bidding process, the trust is considering a range of options, including the development of existing sites and the feasibility of new ones.

A letter from the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has signalled that the trust should restrict their work to options that can be delivered by 2025.

Signed by the DHSC’s second permanent secretary David Williams, it highlights a number of options that it says should be taken forward for in-depth analysis.

Those various options include investment of between £300m and £540m at the Watford General site and a further £50m at St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals.

Watford Observer:

Throughout the process the New Hospital Campaign and the Herts Valleys Hospital groups have continued to push for a new purpose-built hospital.

Following the publication of the letter, the Herts Valleys Hospital group, which believes the best option would be for a new hospital on a site next to the M25 in Bricket Wood, have highlighted the 2025 deadline in Mr Williams’ letter.

Watford Observer:

The Herts Valleys Hospital group has drawn up this design of a new hospital

The group has suggested that a new hospital on an alternative site could be a quicker option.

They said: "The suggestion that providing either new or refurbished facilities by that date on the current Watford hospital site is frankly risible.

"The construction phase of a new build facility on a clear site could without question be considerably quicker than that offered in Watford, and so deliverability and timelines are not a valid reason to discount our proposal."

Meanwhile the New Hospital Campaign has also highlighted the absence of a mention of a new hospital option from the letter.

Campaigner Edie Glatter said: "If the trust keeps a new A&E hospital on a clear, central site off the shortlist, it would make a mockery of any meaningful involvement of patients and the public in health service provision.

"The engagement programme would be a farce and a waste of everybody’s time and money."

Watford Observer:

Potentially what a redeveloped Watford General Hospital could look like

Helen Brown, deputy chief executive at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "The letter from our regulators does not state that only three options will be on the shortlist.

"The letter set outs three options that they expect to see on the shortlist, which will have at least four options."

Ms Brown added any proposal for a new hospital would be "subject to the same rigorous process and financial constraints as the other possibilities" – and that she could not say whether it would be on the shortlist.

Previously, the presentations by the hospital trust have suggested that building a new hospital on a new site could cost more than £700 million.