Health bosses this week ruled out as too expensive a new hospital demanded by campaigners - but a Freedom of Information request has revealed current buildings are “well past their best”.

At a public meeting on Tuesday, West Herts Hospitals Trust (WHHT) rejected proposals put forward by campaign groups such as the New Hospital Campaign.

The campaign has called for a new emergency and specialist hospital for West Hertfordshire, possibly on a site closer to the M25.

In the meeting, the trust drew a “red line”, saying buying land and building a new hospital would cost far too much money – some estimates place the cost as somewhere near £800m.

Rather than build a new hospital, the trust has instead opted for one of either four affordable options; all maintain Watford General Hospital as a “hot site” for specialised care while other hospitals can provide “planned” care.

One of the four options is for a new £180 million ‘planned care centre’ to replace St Albans City and Hemel Hempstead hospitals, with emergency and specialist care being offered at Watford General.

The trust says the plans have been drawn up in recognition that some of the hospital buildings no longer meet NHS standards and are not fit for purpose.

It also points to the ageing population and changing healthcare and says the current, fragmented service could become “clinically unsustainable”.

In an executive summary released by the trust at the request of the campaign, the report found that the three hospitals, Watford General Hospital, St Albans Hospital and Hemel Hempstead Hospital were all in poor condition.

The trust also revealed it intended to secure more funding, instead of a new hospital the trust announced it was “possibly” going to be receiving an estimated £350 million loan from the Government.

This ‘mortgage’ will be based on the annual turnover of the trust and will need to be paid back out of its budget.

In the meantime, if the trust were to receive these funds, it will carry out a total overhaul of its services over the next few years while also carrying out vital restoration on its hospitals.

These include:

  • Moving 40 per cent of hospital trips to a community setting by 2024.
  • Integrating GP practices within the community, mental health, social care, pharmacies and hospitals.
  • Making improvements to Watford General Hospital such as the building of a new multi-storey car park.

The Trust plans to submit their proposals by the summer following a period of public consultation.

The trust released the executive summary also known as the six facet survey earlier last week following an FoI submitted by the NHC – it shows the hospitals are in a bad condition with heavy investment required to make repairs.

The total cost for all the repairs, replacements of vital materials and maintenance is estimated to be around £189 million.

Paddy Hennessy, the trust’s director of environment, said: “We want to provide our patients and staff with better buildings and modern facilities. Our priorities have always been to make sure our patient areas are safe.

“This is a comprehensive programme across all our sites, with all priority one issues dealt with in year one and all works due for completion by 2020.”

“The trust carries out all necessary maintenance and safety or insurance inspections via the appropriate channels to assure itself that, while equipment may be old, it is – to the best of our knowledge – safe and in working order.

“While we would like to address every issue in the survey, financial constraints for investment in our building stock mean this is not possible and is sometimes not the best use of money.”

Ron Glatter, co-ordinator of the New Hospital Campaign, was at the meeting and was shocked when he heard a new hospital had been ruled out.

Mr Glatter said: “It was dropped on us like it was meant to be some knockout blow.

“At the meeting, we were told there was not going to be a new hospital, and they told us there was no certainty about the funding.

“We had submitted an FoI and had three government petitions and we were not expecting this.

“You can’t build over a hospital and expect it to be the very same as a 21st Century hospital at the end of it.

“There is a lack of public trust and you can’t be told something like that out of thin air and not provide any serious evidence to back it up.”

Some criticisms have been levelled at the “modernisation package” of £350m. Watfords Labour Chairman Mike Jackson says it is not enough.

Mr Jackson said: “Whilst we are pleased the trust can now make some progress on the badly overdue modernisation, we will have to see what £350 million can buy.

“Clearly it is not enough for a new hospital and some existing buildings will continue to be used.”