© 2017 The Harpenden Society
Proposals to resurrect Harpenden’s Red House Hospital were considered at a well attended public meeting organised by The Harpenden Society. There was standing room only at Harpenden’s Park Hall on Thursday 21st February. Two senior NHS senior managers, a County Councillor and the team leader from The Harpenden Society made presentations and fielded questions from the public.
Eric Midwinter of the Harpenden Society set the scene by reminding everyone that the Red House, also known as Harpenden Memorial Hospital, is a threatened valuable amenity. He explained that The Harpenden Society set up a task-force known as “The Red House Forum” to initiate and progress action. The current meeting was a part of their activities. Eric stated that many firmly believe that it is vital to maintain local health facilities and to establish a 'Wellness Centre' within the town.
Teresa Heritage, County Councillor for Harpenden South West, started her presentation by explaining that she is the Deputy Executive Member for Health and Adult Care Services at the County Council, the portfolio covers all aspects of health and wellbeing. She told us about the new Health and Wellbeing Committee and its new strategy. Public Health will come under the auspices of the County Council from 1 April 2013. She promised to do all she could to come up with a working plan for the Red House explaining that there are many options ranging from renovation to demolition and rebuilding a new health facility.
The meeting was then addressed by David Law the Chief Executive of Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust. He outlined some of the other services provided by the county that he is responsible for, this includes district nurses, podiatry, outpatient therapy, cardiac rehabilitation, palliative care and children’s health. He declared that he represents the human side of health. He is delighted to be working with the community of Harpenden to plan their health service and was really pleased to see such a good turnout.
A second speaker from the Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust was Gerry Moir, Assistant Director Business Development. Her task is to look at the options for the Red House building which is in a poor condition; she will assess needs and assist in the next steps. She explained that ownership of the Red House will transfer from NHS Hertfordshire to Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust on 1 April 2013.
The options she presented ranged from doing nothing (not realistic), redeveloping the site (possibly as a partnership) and selling the site. Whatever is done must be on the basis of need; an affordable nursing home plus clinics is possible. The new facility will need to cater for the needs of at least 50,000 people not only from Harpenden but also outlying areas such as Wheathampstead and Redbourn. A realistic timescale to achieve any change is 18 to 24 months with costs up to £3 million or more. The next step is for the Community Trust to conduct a dialogue with the local community and with GPs.
Commenting on the event Chris Marsden, Chairman of The Harpenden Society, said “We were delighted to see such a large turnout and gratified to hear lively, intelligent questions being answered so positively. There was clearly strong support from both the community and the officers for as much local care as possible, ranging from well-being facilities to respite care. Although there are fond memories of the old 'cottage hospital' an overwhelming show of hands showed preference for modern services and facilities over sentimental attachment to an old building. Matters are now progressing very well and further constructive communication is planned soon. We were told that a range of improved services on the Red House could well be in place by 2015 or 2016.”
Speakers from left to right, Eric Midwinter, Harpenden Society; Theresa Heritage, County Councillor for Hertfordshire South; Gerry Moir, Assistant Director Business Development Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust and David Law, Chief Executive of Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust
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JUST a word of warning for those who are confident that the new-look Harpenden Memorial Hospital will be the answer to local prayers when the Herts NHS Community Trust takes it over from April.
For while plenty is being said about the views of residents being sought with a view to modernising the facilities and providing local services, it is well worth remembering what happened in 2006.
That was when the former St Albans and Harpenden Primary Care Trust (PCT) – which like so much of the health service has gone through enough name changes to fill a book – decided to close a ward at the hospital which was widely used and loved by townsfolk.
In the middle of August that year, traditionally holiday time, 2,000 people took to the streets of Harpenden to protest at the closure of the ward. It was the biggest protest march in the town and demonstrated the strength of feeling. Local GPs had voiced their concerns about the clinical weaknesses of the closure and the inadequate provision of alternative care arrangements and the local MP, Peter Lilley, came out strongly against it.
So what happened just a couple of months later? The PCT met to make a decision at Harpenden Public Halls, went through the motions of hearing what the objectors felt and then, and put up their hands and voted to close it.
The reaction of the public at the end of the meeting was one of disbelief and the disappointment was palpable. Many people felt they had just been wasting their time and the decision had effectively been taken months earlier.
That was six and a half years ago and now the issue of the future of the whole hospital is in the spotlight. David Law, the new community trust’s chief executive, says it would be uneconomic to try to patch it up and the best option would be to investigate how to fund a “new, modern, purpose-built health facility for the town. ” But however well intentioned he and his team are, the people of Harpenden should be wary of how much attention was paid to their wishes all those years ago and what public consultation meant then and now.
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The Harpenden Society held a public meeting on Thursday, October 24th to announce the NHS plan to redevelop the Red House also known as the Harpenden Memorial Hospital. The meeting was held in Park Hall, Harpenden.
The hall was filled to capacity which reflected the interest in this project. David Law, chief executive of the Herts Community NHS Trust, assisted by Mark Carman, the project manager, presented the proposal for a new Health and Wellbeing Campus.
The Harpenden campus will incorporate a range of facilities, including some residential, to deliver integrated health and social care, all in a welcoming and localised environment.
The audience listened intently and appreciatively to this clear-cut and comprehensive proposal. Questions were probing but positive and were raised concisely and answered competently. Great enthusiasm was shown for the scheme. The meeting was arranged by The Harpenden Society and the Red House Forum, the ginger group which has campaigned for such a way forward as this, and the whole evening proved to be invigorating. The attendees were clearly highly appreciative.
“We are overwhelmed by the delight and passion shown by everyone”, said Society chairman Chris Marsden. “It was so good to see so many people enthusiastically supporting the scheme. We are making excellent progress.”
Once all the necessary approvals have been given construction of the new facility could start as early as 2016.
Left to right: Eric Midwinter - Co-organiser of the Red House Forum and member of The Harpenden Society, David Law - Chief Executive Herts Community NHS Trust, Mark Carman – NHS Project Manager and Teresa Heritage - County Councillor for Harpenden South West and Red House Forum co-organiser.
MEMBERS OF THE RED HOUSE FORUM
David Law Herts Community NHS Trust
Mark Carman Herts Community NHS Trust
John Harris Davenport Park PPG; L&D Hospital Board
Alan Cox Chairman Harpenden Seniors Forum
Graham Phillips pharmacist
Derek Bird former GP Davenport House
Marjorie Biggs Secretary Friends of Harpenden Memorial Hospital
Ian Fulton Chairman Friends of Harpenden Memorial Hospital
Helen Clothier St Albans & Harpenden Patients Group
Bernard Lloyd Health Watch, formerly Herts County Councillor
Rosemary Farmer Town Mayor
Bert Pawle Harpenden Town Council/SADC Councillor
Nicola Linacre Harpenden Town Council
Pat Kent Harpenden Town Councillor
Andrew Chafer GP Davenport House surgery
David Hemsi GP Elms Surgery
Sarah Brindley Elms Surgery Practice Manager
Tracy Perks Herts Valley CCG
Sita Patel Herts Valley CCG
Paul Howes SADC Policy & Performance Manager
29th January 2015 Public Meeting