Local Plan Consultations

Residents of St Albans District still have the chance to keep open potential sites and to highlight the future vision for a between-towns acute hospital.

It is crucial that development does not close-off or restrict  what could be rare suitable sites for an acute hospital.

If you are an SADC resident, you have until 21st February to contribute your views. https://www.stalbans.gov.uk/planning/thelocalplan.aspx

MP & Hospital campaigners meet top NHS bosses


2 local MP’s and our peer group in Dacorum, Campaign for a New Hospital were on the case recently to encourage the NHS to re-consider the recent decision to support West Herts Hospital Trust’s Strategic Outline case.

Mike Penning MP, Ann Main MP, Campaign for a new hospital
Jim Mackey NHS Improvement meeting

They met Jim Mackey, the current head of NHS Improvement in Westminster. Jim is responsible for ensuring that the organisations delivering services on behalf of the Clinical Commissioning groups are run properly. They manage the West Herts Hospital Trust.

His counterpart is Simon Stevens the head of NHS England.  Simon manages the Clinical Commissioning groups like Herts Valleys CCG.

Together they are 2 of the most powerful people in the country when it comes to running our NHS.

Well done to the campaign for a new hospital in getting the meeting. We hope it bears some fruit.

Following the meeting the Campaign for a new hospital group published the following media release via their Facebook page.


The New Hospital Campaign members with Mike Penning M.P. (left) and construction expert Robert Scott (second right) outside Portcullis House, part of the Parliamentary Estate in Westminster

Members of the New Hospital Campaign, which is pressing for a new hospital in a central location in west Hertfordshire, met top NHS regulators with Hemel Hempstead M.P. Mike Penning in Westminster last Thursday 17th August. Mike brought a letter of support from St. Albans M.P. Anne Main who was on holiday: a member of her staff, Ross Ewing, represented her at the meeting.

The group met the Chief Executive of NHS Improvement, Jim Mackey, together with two colleagues. Jim was previously Chief Executive of the Northumbria NHS Trust and in that role developed a groundbreaking local whole system approach including all aspects of health and social care based around a new central hospital which has been awarded ‘outstanding’ status by inspectors.

The group presented a mass of evidence relating to its concerns about the local NHS’s plans to redevelop the current site in Vicarage Road Watford over a period of 13 years with all the risk and disruption that would involve. The Campaign’s high-level construction expert Robert Scott demonstrated that this would be a far more costly and risky venture and would take much longer to complete than the alternative of building a new hospital, which would also give a far better result.

Mike Penning MP said “I was very pleased to be able to arrange the meeting with Jim Mackey of NHS Improvement. I have to say it was one of the most positive meetings we’ve had with the NHS for years. I think we all felt that he really listened to our case and was impressed at the detail and accuracy of our case”.

Graham Cartmell, a member of the Campaign Steering Group, said “It was a really constructive, open exchange. We felt they took note of our point that knocking out the new hospital option at this stage can’t be justified”.

Carry on regardless – Who needs publicity in West Herts ?

Publicising changes to NHS services that are not going to be popular can’t be a nice job. But somebody has to do it ? Right ?

Well maybe not. Maybe not if you’re @HVCCG 

Compared to the neighbouring clinical commissioning group in East & North Hertfordshire, it’s a no contest. Same goes compared to West Essex.

Each of the meetings being held locally in East and North Herts has been “tweeted” about about 3 or 4 days beforehand and have included details of what gong to be changing. Excellent.

They’ve also used an online platform called Eventbrite so people can register for a ticket, and see what other meetings are available in the area. While it’s not necessaryto “register” to come along, it gives the people running it an idea of how many people are coming, and gives the people attending the reassurance that they’ll get in if it’s going to be a packed meeting. Brilliant !

Clearly the guys running the twitter feed at East & North Herts are trying to encourage their followers to come along or are at least trying to make it look like people could have had a say.

In fact they have also tweeted about the general changes twice, IVF once and cross herts changes 4 times.

And then we compare that to the Herts Valleys CCG’s effort. Since the initiative was announced on their website on the 6th of July there has been no news on their website about local meetings. This screenshot was taken on the 15th of July. 

OK so lets not be too mean, maybe they put it somewhere else. Where might that be ? Lets have a look in the events page on their website…..

Nope not there either. Maybe they use some other kind of way to communicate to people and don’t put these kind of things on their website. Hmmmm probably a good idea to put it on more than one place you’d think ????

But wait….. They do……Phew. They put it on twitter. Brilliant. Lets go there and check………

Oh wait.

Empty. Zip. Nada

There’s nothing there….. No tweets about the changes, no tweets about local meetings. Nothing. Zip, nada, nowt ! But wait a minute, how many times did neighbouring East & North Herts tweet about this ? 10 times.

OK so there is ONE re-tweet (which if you’re not up in your tweet terminology means that they saw someone else’s tweet and showed it to their followers) – but it’s not them tweeting with any news. In fact in this case, they re-tweeted East & North Herts CCG’s tweet about the meetings going on in East and North Herts NOT on their own doorstep. So lets get this right you advertised someone else’s meetings but not your own. DOH !

So where are the meetings that they are having ??? Who can go ? How have they told the public that there are changes happening to their healthcare that they are by asking the general public about ???

Are we in a timewarp ?

Well if we were asking this question in the future, we would ask them where was this consultation, who was informed about it and how did they inform everyone about it. Which is precisely what we did when we asked what consultation went on to decide to remove the hospital from Hemel Hempstead. We asked them to provide us with the evidence that they had consulted with the public. They they responded to our FOI. (it’s coming soon.) They rolled out a HUGE list of meetings that were held all over the place. The only trouble was none of them were actually telling the general public what was going on, and none of them were in places that make any sense. One of them for example was at a local train station. When you’re going to catch a train, do you really have time to stop and talk to someone about closing your local hospital. Of course not.

Getting back to the present day, we DO know there’s a “drop in” session happening on Monday the 17th of July at Sportspace in Hemel Hempstead. We know this because we found the only place IN THE UNIVERSE that this event has been publicised. The ONLY way ANYONE in the entire area of West Herts will have found out about this meeting will if they had visited this website and found the calendar of events.

The session is NOT on the website, they haven’t publicised it on their Facebook page, and they haven’t put it on Twitter. Talk about a joke.

The sad thing here is that if you don’t tell anyone about the changes, they cant come along to the meeting and say they object. If nobody objected then the changes go through. This is all about how difficult it is for the average guy in the street to be made aware of these changes – as the CCG has a legal duty to do. They should

a) Publicise the change/event

b) Listen to public opinion and feedback

c) Do something about it.

Who is doing a good job ?

In the case of West Essex, they are publicising the events, have NOT agreed to put these cuts through and ARE from what we can see genuinely consulting.

East & North Herts are publicising the events but we don’t know whether they have already agreed to make the cuts.

Herts Valleys on the other hand have already decided to make the cuts, have not publicised the events, and it really doesn’t matter if they listen to the public opinion so long as there is a  “story” to tell later that of course they “engaged” with the public. Of course the kicker is that not only have they wasted public money on going to an event that nobody will turn up to, they haven’t got the money to do it in the first place as they are already massively overspent. If I had a child at Nascot Lawn and I learnt that the CCG had cut the service because they didn’t have the money, and then learnt that they had wasted money on these “events” I’d be REALLY angry. The way that’s going, the people affected will be taking the CCG to court.

How dare these people waste money BEFORE providing critical respite care for these people.

So come on NHS England. Do what the local MP said. Make the Herts CCG accountable for their actions. 

Local MP challenges unaccountable CCG


Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning yesterday challenged the government to have a debate around the “completely unaccountable” clinical commissioning groups. He goes on to say that the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group cost us £10m a year and rubber stamped more closures in Hemel Hempstead.
Consultation is needed

Andrea Leadsom the leader of the house replied that “There are very clear rules about accountability and consultation”.

Yes we know that. And they’ve been broken. We’ll be publishing our damming report on this soon.
Details below are taken from Mike Penning’s website.

Mike Penning calls for a Parliamentary debate on the power and lack of accountability of Clinical Commissioning Groups following Herts Valleys CCG rubber stamping of West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust’s proposals to focus new development on the existing Watford hospital.

I am sure that the Leader of the House knows that Hemel Hempstead is the largest town in Hertfordshire, but that in 2006—we know which Government were in power—the acute services at Hemel Hempstead Hospital were closed. We now have clinical commissioning groups, but they seem to be completely unaccountable. The CCG for our part of the world costs £10 million a year and it has just rubber-stamped more closures at Hemel Hempstead Hospital. May we have a debate on the power of CCGs and their accountability—or lack of it?

My right hon. Friend makes an important point. Many colleagues from all parties are concerned about what happens to hospitals in their areas. My right hon. Friend will know that there are clear rules about accountability and consultation with patients and that, of course, any decisions should be led by clinicians in consultation with users of the service. He makes an important point and he may well wish to raise it in Westminster Hall or in an Adjournment debate.

| Hansard

Better healthcare and real consultation in West Essex ?

NHS in West Essex listens more than East and North Hertfordshire + Herts Valleys .

Over the border in nearby West Essex, the guys over there ARE following the meaning of consultation, unlike their nearby colleagues in NHS East and North Hertfordshire and NHS Herts Valleys.

As reported today on their news announcement page, the West Essex CCG have announced a CONSULTATION to cut SOME of the things announced last Friday by their neighbours in East, North and Herts Valleys CCG.

We put consultation in BOLD because it really is a consultation and SOME because they have not gone as far thereby creating a discrepancy in the way healthcare is developed and delivered across Herts and Essex.

Here’s what West Essex said ….

West Essex Clinical Commissioning Group (WECCG)

  • Limiting the routine prescription of medicines and products that can be bought without prescription for short-term conditions and minor ailments.
  • Reducing or stopping the availability of NHS-funded IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and specialist fertility services.

Whereas over the border the change is bigger

NHS East and North Hertfordshire and NHS Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs)

  • Tightening up existing rules so that people who smoke or whose weight is classified as ‘obese’ are required to make bigger improvements to their health before non-urgent surgery – unless a longer wait for surgery would be harmful
  • Limiting the routine prescription of food supplements, as well as medicines and products that can be bought without prescription for short-term conditions and minor ailments
  • Restricting the prescribing of gluten-free foods
  • Stopping NHS funding for female sterilisation procedures
  • Reducing or stopping the availability of NHS- funded IVF (in vitro fertilisation) and specialist fertility services, apart from in exceptional circumstances (West Essex CCG is also consulting its residents on this issue).

So if you’re in an area covered by NHS East and North Hertfordshire and NHS Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) you’re about to get hit  worse than if you’re in West Essex. Maybe this is because Herts Valleys are in financial turnaround but are East Herts CCG too ? We don’t know.  Perhaps people in East & North Herts are being penalised as they are in the same CCG group as Herts Valleys. (Yes this is sooo confusing isn’t it).

And as we were saying on Friday, if you think you’re getting consulted in West Herts (and East Herts) think again.

The interesting thing here is that West Essex have not actually agreed to make these cuts yet. Their board have NOT voted to agree the cuts and there’s a chance that they may actually listen to their public, and then discuss and agree. So they are actually doing what they should and as Wikipedia says doing the

  1. Notification
  2. Consultation
  3. Participation

If you want the full definition of consultation read the OCED document.

Of course West Herts continue to pretend that they are consulting and have just jumped to the participation bit….. and called it consulting. Again.


NHS still not listening to local views #NHSletstalk

The Herts Valleys Clinical commissioning group (HVCCG) really is covering itself in glory these days. Yesterday they launched their “Healthier future #NHSletstalk” initiative. It’s a joint exercise with the neighbouring authority in Essex to make  “to make best use of the money available to the local NHS, while helping as many people as possible to live healthier, longer lives and avoid preventable illnesses.”

Which is a brilliant concept. Really it is. Read about it here

Trouble is, again they are telling us that this is a CONSULTATION. It’s not. A consultation is where you are asked for your view on something and the other party thinks about it, discusses it with you, and then decides whether to continue with their initial idea, whether to modify it or not.

Information not consultation

What they’re actually doing is providing you with INFORMATION about something that has already been decided. If you don’t believe us, look at their own meeting agenda (page 14) and minutes of the meeting (page 17-18)  which states  “… we are proposing to embark on an engagement programme in a number of clinical areas and full consultation on IVF.”

So for IVF they will listen and re-consider but for the rest, it’s just an “engagement”.

Without getting into the medical details, they are saying if you are obese, smoke, need special food, need the snip or sterilisation the decision has been taken. You won’t get help when you go to your GP on the particular new issue you have. End of.

For example, if you are seriously overweight they will NOT perform  non-urgent surgery UNLESS a longer wait would be harmful. They will only do it IF you are under their set BMI limit.

Proactive help needed

We’d like to think that in a modern world people try to take responsibility for their own health, and that the NHS was there to support and help them. This includes taking your own action first and the NHS being there to support people BEFORE there is a problem. For example if you are obese, they would recommend or provide ways to get fit and lose weight.

  • For example by getting you some sessions at a local gym
  • For example advising you on what not to eat

This does happen in some parts of West Herts but it isn’t available everywhere.

So reading about the changes and figuring out whether you’ll be denied access to healthcare is the first thing to do. But don’t for one minute think that taking their feedback survey is going to make ONE BIT OF DIFFERENCE don’t. The decision has already been taken.

No consultation – again

The problem once again is that (with the exclusion of IVF) there will be NO public consultation – we will only be informed of a decision that has been taken. Just like the failure to put the options for the greenfield site in the SOC and just like the decision to close Nascot Lawn children’s centre. No discussion with the public, no listening, just a decision taken without the correct consultation. This is NOT what the head of NHS Improvement Jim Mackey  told local NHS leaders only 2 weeks ago.

Cost cutting due to poor financial management

Lets be clear, this initiative is part of the Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning group’s financial turnaround plan. They have overspent, and have been told by the government to cut what they are spending. And so they should. But not by cutting corners and failing to do public consultation. Once again it’s a short sighted view that passes the burden to future generations as opposed to doing things today – whether it be public consultation OR preventive healthcare.

Maybe the PR campaign should be re-named #NHSletstalkbutwerenotlistening



Its a Mockery

Hemel Hempstead Gazette – The plan is a mockery

The decision by HVCCG is described by The Campaign for a New hospital as a mockery. Also the local MP says “Anyone with common sense would see that we should all work together” and deputy chair of the local labour group said “It’s absurd that the CCG are pressing ahead with this deeply unpopular plan”