Campaigners have announced an ambitious fundraising campaign to make a centrally located new hospital a ‘viable’ option for west Herts.

Earlier today (Thursday) the West Herts Hospital Trust board agreed to submit a £350 million bid to invest in hospital sites in Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead – with the bulk of the investment in Watford.

The estimated the cost of building a new hospital would be more than £600 million – and health bosses ruled out the option earlier this year.

But members of the Herts Valley Hospital campaign believe a single world class hospital based on a site between Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead is still the better option.

And at the meeting of the hospital trust board today, they announced a major fundraising campaign  to provide the trust with a “viable better choice”.

Chair of ‘Herts Valleys Hospital’, Peter Ingram – who has lived in the area for 46 years – told the board they sympathised with the “imperfect decision” that the trust was being asked to make.

And he said they recognised the opportunity the trust would have to “upgrade to a much better solution” at the ‘outline business case’ stage of the process.

He said: “We are aware of the size of the funding gap to be bridged and acknowledge that this is a huge challenge.

“That challenge is accepted.

“Herts Valley Hospital announces today that, within the next six to nine months, we will provide you with a viable better choice – a centrally located hospital supported by local facilities.

“We will do this by harnessing the latent enterprise, skills, passions and philanthropy of the west Herts community.

“In very practical terms, that means we will now embark on a major fundraising campaign.”

Mr Ingram said the group had already identified two sites that met the hospital’s criteria, with land owners who were wiling to include a hospital as part of their development plans.

And he said they would now commission a feasibility study looking at how best to raise the funds.

He told the meeting that a “key feature” of their approach was that they intended to work positively and constructively with the clinical commissioning group and the trust.

During the meeting the board acknowledged that there would be an opportunity to review the plans at outline business case stage – provided there had been material changes.

In answer to a question at the meeting, deputy chief executive Helen Brown did acknowledge there may be the opportunity for the hospital to increase it’s fundraising activity.

And she said this could be used to ‘add value’ to the hospital and to improve the hospital experience for patients.

“I think there is an opportunity for us to grow our charity and we have had that feedback from local residents,” se said .

She said that they did want to “stretch the envelope” as much as they could – which could be used to add value  and quality  and to make a difference to patients.

But it was suggested that this could not be on the sort of scale that was being talked about for a new hospital.

Following the meeting, Ms Brown said that the funding gap between the two projects was “significant” and that the Herts Valleys Hospital group’s fundraising target was “incredibly ambitious”. But she said the trust’s “door is open” to the group.

Members of the board have already met with members of the Herts Valleys Hospital group.