‘Town hospital’s days are numbered’

HEMEL Hempstead is too small to maintain its unaffordable hospital, said a Berkhamsted chief.

Councillor Garrick Stevens spoke out during a meeting of the planning committee of Berkhamsted Town Council on Monday (December 6).

Town councillors were discussing Dacorum Borough Council’s plans to build new homes and redevelop huge swathes of the area between now and 2031.

Borough council planners want to build new homes and facilities alongside Hemel Hempstead Hospital.

But Mr Stevens said: “I can’t help feeling that we are not taking account of the reality of where we are.

“It is unlikely that there will ever be a hospital in the form that we used to support it.

“Hemel Hempstead is too small to support a general hospital. We are just pandering to a wish that people have to maintain a facility like that.

“Hemel Hempstead can’t afford to run a hospital.”

He said it was “desirable” the town keep its hospital – but questioned the practicality of this.

Councillor Lindy Foster Weinreb said: “A lot of people would be dead if they had a heart attack and had to get to Watford.”

The Gazette reported last week that a patient was surrounded by flying bugs while being treated at Hemel Hempstead Hospital.

But Berkhamsted town councillors refused to object to Dacorum Borough Council’s plans.

Committee chairman Ian Reay said: “It’s in Hemel Hempstead and we are Berkhamsted. If we did have a view on these plans, I would want to support them.”

David McNeil, spokespman for West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust, said the organisation had invested £7million in the hospital in the past two years.

He said: “It is a very strong, vibrant hospital and we will continue to provide services there for as long as we are asked to.”

The plans were drawn up under Dacorum Borough Council’s Draft Core Strategy consultation, which runs until Wednesday (December 15).

People can vote on which planning options for the borough are best by visiting http://consult.dacorum.gov.uk/portal.