AMBITIOUS plans for a multi-million pound upgrade of Royal Berkshire Hospital have taken a step forward.

Hospital bosses say they want to construct a new hospital or replace some of the run-down buildings on the Reading site with modern facilities.

They submitted a strategic outline case for the project to NHS England in December 2020 and want permission to prepare a business case that would be used to apply for government funding.

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“The pot of money we’re able to secure for this will determine largely the scale of our ambition and the affordability of the options we can consider,” said Nicky Lloyd, acting chief executive of Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

“We will need to continue to offer all our services throughout the construction period.”

One of the options – outlined in the strategic outline case – is building a new emergency care block in the middle of the current site that contains a larger accident and emergency department, a new intensive care unit and new operating theatres.

Another option is to build a new hospital, with a medical school and research centre, on the existing site.

“It would be largely new buildings, new blocks and new facilities, but there would be a small amount of refurbishment to existing buildings, particularly the main iconic building at the front of the hospital,” said John Underwood, director of the communications agency Freshwater.

“It would be developed over a period of time, in phases.

“This would help support the growing demand within our local communities, it would facilitate the greater integration of health and care services.”

There is also an option to build a new hospital on another nearby site and Ms Lloyd has described this as “the easier albeit more expensive option”.

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Hospital bosses are keen to replace outdated hospital buildings that are in a poor condition, so they can increase capacity and provide high-quality healthcare in modern, energy efficient buildings.

They say the outline business case will include a timeline for the project and more detailed plans that reveal which services and facilities will be provided in each building.

If that business case is approved, the government will provide funding as part of the Health Infrastructure Plan over the next decade.

“We’re really excited about it,” said Ms Lloyd. “It’s a once in a generation opportunity.

“We all want to do the right thing for this community and get the best possible backing from central government and anyone else to take this from a plan on a page to a reality.”

Her comments came at a meeting of Wokingham Borough Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Tuesday, January 12.