Page09 - Health update

New Watford Health Services

The cold winter this year has resulted in considerable pressure on the services of Watford Hospital, reports Henry Goldberg, our health correspondent. However, the new 120 bed acute admissions unit is now open to patients. The hospitals' trust reports that patients are favourably impressed with the new facilities. A&E and acute services have been transferred to Watford from Hemel Hempstead hospital. Hemel has a new urgent care centre, opened last October. The urgent care centre is a GP led unit that should be dealing with over 60 per cent of previous A&E admissions.

Maternity review

A review has recently been conducted of matemity services in West Herts. lt has commended the Alexandra Birthing Unit and maternity unit at Watford hospital, recommended that the Hemel birthing unit be permanently closed, and that there be ante and post natal services at Watford, Hemel, and St. Albans hospitals.

Public consultation

A public consultation on these recommendations is expected around September this year. Births at Watford hospital are reported to be increasing, due to the popularity of both the birthing unit and the full maternity unit. Women are coming from Barnet, Harrow, and Hillingdon. The neo-natal death rates are reported to be way below the national average.

Tenders are being invited by the Primary Care Trust for a community Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) service for West Herts. It is understood that this service will be designed to help people with breathing problems, without the need for them to go into hospital.

How safe are our hospitals?

Widespread concern will have been felt following recent media reports of the high death rates and poor conditions in the A&E department of a Staffordshire hospital, writes our health correspondent. At its March board meeting, the Chairman of West Herts Hospitals Trust therefore sought to re- assure people that such conditions could not occur locally. West Herts Hospitals Trust manages the hospitals at Watford, Hemel Hempstead, and St. Albans. The Chairman said that the Trust had rigorous checks and
systems in place to avoid such a situation. He also pointed out that deaths in the Trust were 10 per cent to 20 per cent lower (depending on the system of analysis used) than in similar acute hospitals. 

On hospital acquired infections, it was reported at the same board meeting that these were at a level that made West Herts hospitals among  the safest in the country.

Cancer Services

A group of Chorleywood residents gathered last Autumn to produce a response on behalf of the Residents' Association, to the pre-consultution discussion on options for the development of cancer services for Hertfordshire. The group preferred either of the two options that would retain cancer services at Mount Vernon hospital. These two options were either to concentrate all services at Mount Vernon. or have Mount Vernon as the hub of the cancer network with other (unspecified) satellite service centres, At a meeting on March 30, the Herts Primary Care Trusts provided feedback on the pre-consultation discussion and announced their

These are that the Cancer centre should remain at Mount Vernon for the long term. There should also be a feasibility study for establishing a satellite service that enables better access for people living in North Herts and South Bedfordshire. Furthermore, an academic partner will be identified and a partnership negotiated to enable high quality research and development to continue at Mount Vernon. The Cancer Centre specialises in radiotherapy and chemo-therapy. Specialist gynaeeology and upper gastro intestinal cancer surgery will be provided from Watford hospital, urological surgery from the Lister hospital in Stevenage, and specialist head and neck surgery from the Luton and Dunstable hospital. As the Cancer Centre will remain at Mount Vernon, site development issues will now need to be addressed. The Cancer Centre has a new radiological wing, but there are other facilities that are in urgent need of upgrade or redevelopment.