Hospital bosses are looking to cut the costs of their plans to redevelop health care services in West Herts after estimates suggested they would cost too much.
Patrons of the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust have already submitted a general planning request to redevelop Watford General, off Vicarage Road – including three iconic blocks of up to 18 stories.
But it has now emerged that the cost of this planned development at Watford will be over Â£ 540million, which was the maximum figure given by national health chiefs last year.
Part of the increase in costs would reflect the growing importance of net zero carbon and the integration of the latest digital technologies – as well as changes in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Now, hospital leaders have recognized that they need to look for “efficiencies” in order to reduce costs.
This could include reducing the footprint or height of planned new buildings.
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“We take the responsibility of spending public money very seriously and therefore, as we pursue our plans, we will also seek efficiencies,” said Helen Brown, deputy managing director of the Trust.
“We are working hard to find the balance between having fabulous new and renovated buildings while striving for good value for money.”
She added, âThis is a once in a generation opportunity to transform the way we deliver care and our hospital sites.
It was at a recent ‘Your Care, Your Views’ public engagement event that Ms Brown publicly acknowledged that the cost of existing plans to redevelop the Watford site could exceed Â£ 540million.
“It is clear that a new construction option for emergency care at the Watford site will cost more than the Â£ 540million planned,” she said.
“We did a first round of costs – but they are by no means finalized and we are still working on a lot of details at the moment.”
Ms Brown said the Trust – under continuous challenge from her, NHS England and the new hospital program – was focused on getting the right solution in terms of services, space and cost.
But – as a 48 nationwide bid for a redevelopment by 2030 – she said they would need to demonstrate the offer was affordable locally and for the NHS more broadly.
As part of the process, she said she expected the option offered by the Trust to be a new emergency care facility.
But she said there would be other options in the assessment that were “not quite a complete new build but cost a little less.”
And she said there would then be a discussion with the new hospital program and the regulator to determine the right solution.
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“… certainly for emergency care, we think the benefits of the new construction are really very important,” she said.
âWe will continue to advocate for this to get the best possible solution. “
In October 2019, Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged Â£ 400million for the redevelopment of hospital services in West Herts.
In June 2020, the Department of Health and Social Affairs told the Trust it would consider an offer of up to Â£ 540million for the Watford site – including the replacement of the Princess Michael of Kent building.
In addition, they have indicated that up to Â£ 50million may be available to invest in hospitals in Hemel Hempstead and St Albans City.
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