I have now had my first face to face meeting with Samantha Jones, the new chief executive of the West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust. It was a very open and frank meeting and I felt we had a good exchange of views.
I outlined the history of the closures at Hemel Hempstead under previous chief executives and the previous government and the difficulties and anger this has caused patients who live in Dacorum.
I made it clear that it is paramount that all existing services in Hemel Hempstead remain and our hospital provision is not eroded any further.
We talked about the parking situation – both the high cost and lack of provision.
Dacorum and St Albans patients are experiencing real problems travelling to and from Watford. The dire parking situation only makes it worse.
When they closed most of Hemel Hempstead’s hospital, we were promised transport for staff and patients who needed to get to Watford. This is now under threat and I made it quite clear that any change to this would be unacceptable.
Watford clearly cannot cope with the numbers of patients – more temporary buildings have recently been erected on the site. This is a crazy state of affairs when we have buildings on a central site here in Hillfield Road standing largely empty.
Surely it is plain common sense that we should be making the most of what we already have?
If Watford is struggling to cope now, how can it possibly cope over the next ten years? It is clear that the current Watford centralisation solution is only ever going to be temporary.
Long term I believe we need a new state-of-the-art acute hospital on a new central site – a large modern hospital that would serve all of this part of Hertfordshire and North West London, on a site which is easily accessible, with ample parking and room for expansion.
This is a long term goal and would be a ten year project, but we should be looking forward and starting to plan such a solution now.
I know it can be done – and I believe that eventually it will be done. I urge the Trust to look forward.
There is a large and growing population in this area and it seems only common sense that it should be served by a large, dynamic, accessible, world-class hospital.
Tinkering about with Watford hospital is only ever going to be a temporary solution. It has so many drawbacks and restrictions it can never successfully serve all the people of this area.
We all know this.
I concluded the meeting by inviting the chief executive to come and meet the Dacorum Hospital Action Group (DHAG) and learn first-hand about the problems facing local patients and I am delighted that she has agreed to meet with them in the very near future.
Mike Penning is the Conservative MP for Hemel Hempstead. Contact his office on 01442 450444 or via www.mikepenning.com