New NHS hospital 'not ruled out' for West Hertfordshire
A new hospital in Hertfordshire has now "not been ruled out" as NHS bosses were told they could look at options worth a further £190m.
West Herts Hospitals NHS Trust had agreed to invest in its existing hospitals rather than build a new one.
It is now "considering the option" of replacing rather than refurbishing existing buildings and also looking at the viability of other sites.
Campaigners for a new facility called it "fantastic news".
Last July, the Trust and Herts Valleys Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) said they wanted to bid for £350m of government funding with investment planned for services in Watford, St Albans and Hemel Hempstead, including refurbishment of Watford General Hospital.
In September, it was told by the government it would have £400m to spend.
It had estimated the cost of building a new facility central to all three towns would be about £700m - and had ruled it out.
NHS England and the government have now confirmed that an option, including replacing rather than refurbishing the main block at Watford General at a cost of about £590m, could be looked at.
Trust deputy chief executive Helen Brown told a meeting of stakeholders they were also "taking another look at a new hospital on a new site" and had commissioned a review of a number of greenfield options.
"[NHS England and the government] are willing to let us look at other options," she said.
"They have said we can appraise options above the [initial] threshold, but that isn't an approval of funding above that level.
"Looking at a new emergency hospital on a new site has not been ruled in and not been ruled out... but we haven't been given a blank cheque."
The Herts Valleys Hospital campaign, which wants a centrally-located new hospital, said the possibility of more funds was "fantastic news".
"It is possibly true that a simple application of the additional funds would enable Watford to be completely rebuilt on the same site... [but] this would be a failure of imagination and vision," a spokesman said.