A new state-of-the-art hospital could be on the cards after the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust secured a share of the £3.7 billion government programme funding healthcare improvements.
And Wokingham Borough Council’s health executive said that he would welcome discussions for the new hospital to be built in the borough.
Confirmed by the prime minister earlier this month, the capital project was originally proposed in the 2019 election manifesto, and is now moving forward.
Forty hospitals have been approved for building or rebuilding, including Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust’s Reading hospital, where the “ageing estate” will be replaced “to tackle significant critical backlog”.
Despite its £152 million makeover in 2006, the hospital is operating beyond its current capacity and expected local population growth will cause a further rise in service demand.
In response, the trust has launched a public consultation to listen to what the community wants for the rebuild.
The Building Berkshire Together plan states: “We have an opportunity to develop a master plan, or blueprint, for an amazing hospital, designed and organised from the ground up.
“This is our opportunity to create a great hospital for local people, delivering great care and treatment, and we want our staff, patients, partners and local communities to help us design it.”
The hospital team said nothing is being ruled out, and a range of rebuilding plans are being considered, including refurbishing some of the buildings; rebuilding on the Craven Road site; building a new hospital somewhere else or building a hospital and putting an outpatient centre somewhere else.
Cllr Charles Margetts, executive member for health, well-being and adult services at the borough council said he welcomed any investment in the Royal Berkshire Hospital.
“We welcome any idea that delivers on the ground and is a real benefit to residents,” he said. “It’s important to look at the details.
“We need somewhere accessible to as many people as possible.
“I understand one consideration is to keep critical care in the central Reading location, but build a new hospital facility for outpatients and day care somewhere else.”
And both greenfield and brownfield sites are up for consideration, according to the NHS trust.
“We would welcome a discussion with the trust about building in Shinfield,” said Cllr Margetts. “Or perhaps Woodley or Earley, or off the A33 … anything that improves access for our residents.
“But the most important thing is for residents to have their say, and respond to the public consultation to share their views on the plans,” he added.
Also welcoming the investment was Cllr Clive Jones, deputy leader of Wokingham Liberal Democrats and soon-to-be governor at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.
He told Wokingham.Today: “If we can be ambitious and become a teaching hospital with the University of Reading, that would be fantastic. Residents who travelto London hospitals or to John Radcliffe wouldn’t have to anymore.”
Cllr Jones suggested Green Park in Reading and the Thames Valley Science Park in Shinfield could both be suitable locations for a new facility.
“On balance, it’s better to start again and go to a new site,” Cllr Jones added. “From the conversations I’ve had, the ambition is to come up with a new state-of-the-art hospital.
Cllr Jones encouraged residents to join the consultation, adding: “The NHS is so important to all of the families in the Reading and Wokingham area — it’s just such a vital part of our lives.”
Hospital users across the borough and further afield have started responding to the plans, calling for the new hospital to prioritise car parking for staff and visitors.
“A new hospital needs to be close to the M4 making access easier for ambulances, buses and patients,” said one hospital user. “A really big car park for the wonderful staff at the RBH and to ease the stress of parking for patients.”
A Wargrave resident suggested the Shinfield-based Thames Valley Science Park could be a suitable location.
He said: “The preferable option would be for the initial construction of an elective care and cancer centre at a new location to the south of Reading, ideally at the Green Park site for rail access or at the University’s business park so that a significant part of the trusts activities can be transferred off-site before any work is done at the Craven Road site.
“The Craven Road site can then be optimised for Accident and Emergency, diagnostics and cardiovascular services following the demolition of much of the asbestos ridden south block.”
To take part in the public consultation, visit: www.thefutureroyalberkshire.uk.engagementhq.com