Construction of a new Royal Berkshire Hospital, either in the current location or elsewhere, is likely to begin in 2025 or 2026, according to hospital trust chiefs.

The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust outlined plans for a new hospital at Reading’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Friday (October 8). It is one of 48 hospital trusts across the country which will receive funding to rebuild or construct new hospitals.

Alison Foster, programme director at the trust, revealed the current hospital needs maintenance work totalling almost £200 million, along with the need for more clinical space, transport issues, and a desire to go carbon net zero.

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After consultation with the public, the possibilities have now been whittled down to three options:

  • Completely rebuilding the hospital at the current site
  • Redevelopment of the site, including an emergency care block, elective centre for planned hospital care, new women’s and children’s facility, and a local medical school
  • Building a new hospital at a different location

The trust is now working on an outline business case, a 12 to 18-month process which involves coming up with a long list of options, including various potential new locations, before reducing it down to a shortlist and then making a decision on which option to go for, with the aim of getting the best value for money.

Ms Foster said the treasury will have the final say on which plans go ahead but the trust would “pull the information together to help make that decision and make a case for what is best for the needs of the population”.

She added: “We will put forward proposals that are good value for money.

“But it is still within the gift of the treasury to say we only have £200 million and that is all we can give you.”

The Government has not yet announced how much funding the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust will get for a new hospital.

Accessibility concerns

While work to construct a new hospital will not begin until 2025 at the earliest, work to improve accessibility at the hospital will not have to wait.

Ramona Bridgman, chairwoman of the Reading Families' Forum, who earlier this year raised concerns about accessibility, asked what plans there are to improve this issue.

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Responding, Ms Foster said: “If we got the go-ahead tomorrow for funding to build a new hospital, we know if it was a hospital off-site, it’s probably going to take the best part of four or five years minimum, probably a lot longer.

“We can’t wait that long to make improvements to what we’ve already got.”

She said a series of proposals to improve accessibility would be considered in December by the trust’s estates committee.

Going carbon neutral

On the target of going net zero carbon by 2045, which would include staff travel to and from the hospital but not patient transport, Ms Foster said it would be a struggle if the new hospital is built at the current site.