Watford General Hospital
60 Vicarage Road, Watford, Herts WD1 8HB
Medical dates:

Medical character:
1930 - current


Following the Local Government Act, 1929, the Poor Law Unions and the Boards of Guardians were abolished and all workhouses and their infirmaries came under the control of the local Borough and County Council authorities.

In 1930 the Watford Union workhouse at 60 Vicarage Road was taken over by Watford Borough Council, who renamed it the Shrodells Public Assistance Institution (PAI) ('Shrodells' apparently means 'shrubberies' - many workhouses were renamed when they became PAIs to try to negate the association and stigma of the workhouse).  The workhouse had opened in 1838.  Its buildings were built of brick, and were mainly two storeys high.

During WW2 Shrodells PAI became part of the Emergency Medical Scheme (EMS), as an Advanced Base for University College Hospital and Charing Cross Hospital.  Its 578 bed complement was augmented by 198 EMS beds.

The Institution joined the NHS in 1948 as Shrodell's Hospital.  It had 464 general beds.  The former workhouse chapel was renamed St Barnabas' chapel  (its organ, built by Thomas S. Jones & Son, was later transferred to All Saints' Church in South Oxhey).

In 1950 the continuous line of one-storey buildings in front of the administration block was demolished, leaving an open courtyard.

By 1953 the Hospital was linked with the Watford and District Peace Memorial Hospital and shared the same consultant staff.  It had 419 beds, for mainly chronic patients.  In 1958 it had 386 beds for acute and chronic patients.

In 1965 the Hospital merged officially with the Watford and District Peace Memorial Hospital to form the Watford General Hospital.  It became the Shrodells Wing with 361 beds.  The first of a three-phase major redevelopment plan to upgrade and modernise the Hospital was initiated in the late 1960s.  In 1968 the Holywell Hospital became the Holywell Wing of the Watford General Hospital, while the Watford Maternity Hospital in King Street became its Maternity Wing.  In 1969 the Shrodells Wing briefly became a geriatric hospital with 356 beds (increased to 477 in 1970).  

In 1972 the Shrodells Psychiatric Unit was established.  One of the first of its kind, it had 40 beds.  However, the redevelopment of the Hospital had ground to a halt, the government first delaying the project and then abandoning it.  Phase three of the scheme would have provided a new suite of four operating theatres with its own Sterile Supply Unit.  In 1975, some 1,200 residents and workers in the Borough of Watford signed a petition to the government, complaining about the long waiting lists and inadequate facilities at the Hospital.  Staff shortages and defunct equipment even meant that the Casualty Department had to be closed some weekends.  The Hospital by this time had 544 beds for mainly acute patients.

In 1983 a new £1m Nurses' Home was built on the eastern side of the site by Willow Lane.  The U-shaped building was linked in with the existing staff accommodation.  It had 60 bed-sitting rooms, 12 family apartments, a Common Room and basement areas.

In the mid-1980s, when the Hospital had 436 beds, the Princess Michael of Kent Wing opened.  It housed the Out-Patients Department, wards and various departments, including the Accident and Emergency Department, and increased the bed complement to 536 beds.

In 1991 a reorganisation of the NHS introduced a new system of financial administration.  Designed to improve treatments and costs, the new 'internal market' required hospitals to become commissioned trusts, while District Health Authorities and GPs became fund-holders who bought their services.   In May 1993 the Hospital had 556 acute beds and was facing a deficit of £3.2m.  The Hospital Committee decided to restrict treatment of patients funded by the South West Hertfordshire District Health Authority to only urgent or emergency surgery.  Patients referred by fund-holding GPs would continue to receive a full, elective service.

In 1998 the future of the Hospital was in jeopardy as the West Hertfordshire Area Health Authority debated over whether the main hospital for the district should be in Hemel Hempstead or Watford.

Following yet another NHS reshuffle the Hospital came under the control of West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust in 2000.  It survived and, in 2004, work began on a new Acute Admissions Unit which would contain 120 beds.

Present status (November 2010)

In February 2010 the Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, officially opened the new wedgwood blue £12m 3-storey Acute Admissions Unit, which had been completed in September 2008 and opened to patients in March 2009.  Believed to be the largest such unit in the country, it is open 24 hours a day and has 120 beds for emergency admissions, two cardiac catheterisation laboratories, a pharmacy and an Imaging Department for X-ray, ultrasound and CT examinations.  Also in February the Hospital installed its first MRI scanner.

In 2010 the Hospital had 402 beds.

Plans are being made by the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and eight other organisations to develop the site as a 'Health Campus'.  

N.B. Photographs were obtained in June 2008

Watford General Hospital
The former administration building of the workhouse is now Sycamore House, a Grade II listed building.  It is still used by the Hospital.

  Watford General Hospital Watford General Hospital
The Lodge at the Hospital entrance (left).  The rather discreet main entrance to the Hospital, with the Lodge on the  left and the Maternity Wing on the right (right).  

  Watford General Hospital  Watford General Hospital
The Dermatology Centre and Medical Education Centre are housed in 'H' block - the infirmary block of the workhouse.

Watford General Hospital
'H' block.

Watford General Hospital  Watford General Hospital    
The former workhouse buildings now contain various hospital departments.

Watford General Hospital  
 Watford General Hospital
Former ward blocks near Vicarage Road are now used for offices and services.

Watford General Hospital 
The former Nurses' Home.

Watford General Hospital
The Princess Michael of Kent Wing.

The future yet to come.
(Author unstated) 1993 District hospital restricts admissions.  British Medical Journal 306 (6885), 1085.


www.westhertshospitals.nhs.uk (Annual Report 2007-2008)

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