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Fears for future of St Albans City Hospital
St Albans City Hospital faces an uncertain future as health bosses look to redraw hospital services in south west Hertfordshire.
The St Albans and Harpenden Review understands officials at West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust are looking at potentially moving services from St Albans or Hemel Hempstead as part of the Watford health campus scheme.
This week, the trust said no decisions had been made about the future of the two hospitals but declined to confirm whether there would still be health services based in St Albans after the Watford General rebuild.
In a statement the trust said: “We are committed to providing the people of St Albans, Watford, Hemel Hempstead and surrounding areas with the best possible care in a safe and welcoming environment.
“We must also ensure our services are provided in a way which is both clinically and financially sustainable for the longer term.
“We are currently working with our doctors, nurses, midwives, other staff, patient representatives and NHS partners to develop a long term clinical and financial strategy for the trust.
“The strategy will help determine the clinical services we provide across the local area and, as such, to put forward proposals for the long term future shape of our three hospital sites. “This includes our work on the Watford health campus scheme, which is a partnership with Watford Borough Council and others.
“We expect to publish the strategy later this year and look forward to sharing the proposals with our patients and local people.
“It is important to remember absolutely no decisions have been made at this stage and that plans to change services at any of our hospitals would be subject to appropriate public engagement and consultation.”
In the past the trust has openly discussed selling off parts of its St Albans site to developers if services are reduced at the hospital.
In the trust’s Annual Plan 2012-13, health bosses discussed a previous plan to redraw services at St Albans site saying: “If this happens the trust would reconfigure the site to use the better quality accommodation currently occupied by (Herts Community Trust), enabling the trust to vacate and dispose of redundant buildings on the site.
“Given previous economic assessments of the market value for housing developments in this area it seems very likely that the site would be attractive to developers and would achieve a significant capital receipt.”
However, that report was published before the trust’s new chief executive, Samantha Jones, took the helm in February.
The trust is currently drawing up a new clinical strategy in light of the planned redevelopment of Watford General Hospital as part of the health campus.
Those plans are set to be unveiled in the autumn and should make clear the future of the Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead hospitals.
Yet last week it emerged West Hertfordshire Hospital Trust was in financial difficulty and headed for potential debts of £30 million, which has led to questions about how the rebuild will funded.
This week, St Albans politicians said they would not want to see any reduction of services at the city hospital.
Park Street Liberal Democrat, Councillor Aislinn Lee, said: “St Albans City Hospital is the jewel in the crown. It provides a high level of clinical care, high level hygiene and a speedy turnover of patients.
“The medical day surgery is second to none, it is superb.
“They have invested significant amounts of funding in to the hospital and this just demonstrates the current financial problems the NHS are in.
“We need services in St Albans. The hospital serves our community very well.”
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