QUESTIONS over the funding of a potential new hospital site in the Reading area remain as health bosses say a number of difficult decisions are to be made regarding the future of Royal Berkshire Hospital.

Dates have been revealed for the potential upgrade of the Royal Berkshire Hospital at its current location as work could start between 2025 and 2030.

But there is the possibility that a new hospital could be built, which could even be built outside of the borough altogether.

Possible locations for a new hospital include Green Park, a site near the Madejski Stadium or Thames Valley Science Park, which is in Wokingham Borough.

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The uncertain future of the Royal Berkshire Hospital was discussed at a Reading Borough Council’s adult social care, children’s services and education committee, where councillors received a presentation by Alison Foster.

Alison Foster, who’s the programme director for the the hospital redevelopment programme ‘Building Berkshire Together’ implied redevelopment on its existing site is a better option.

Mrs Foster said redevelopment on site would cost £750-950 million, whereas as a new build hospital would likely cost  £1.2  billion or more.

However, she said there are major issues with the hospital as it is.

Mrs Foster explained: “We have significant issues on site, we have pressures on our acute areas so the ICU and A&E,  a lot of those are way to small and not fit for purpose now nevermind going forward into the future.”

The current site also costs an astronomical amount to maintain, with backlog maintenance costing an estimated £200 million.

£2 million has been spent this year to keep the left side of the old building up, and an estimated £10-£12 million would be needed to fix it and bring it into use.

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Yet Mrs Foster said relocation would take anywhere up to 10 years to complete, saying that she is ‘not optimistic’ about achieving the funding needed for such a relocation. 

Benefits of moving include not being constrained by the size of the existing site, and less money would be needed to maintain it.

But such a project would take longer to implement.

Mrs Foster said: “When you start to apply for it, to get the transport links, to get the planning, you’re talking a good 10 years before we’d have to get there.”

Services at the existing hospital would have to continue as well.

The plans for upgrading the hospital are being undertaken as part of the New Hospitals Programme, with the ambition of building 48 new hospitals

The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust which runs the hospital was put on the programme in 2019.

A new hospital within the programme can also be defined as the development of a new wing at a new hospital, which Mrs Foster called “a little misleading.”

Councillor Graeme Hoskin (Labour, Norcot), expressed displeasure at this definition of a new hospital from the Government,

He said: “We need substantial and adequate investment in our hospital, simply a new wing and a lick of paint will not be adequate.”

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Cllr Hoskin asked what could be done to encourage the Government to fund the upgrade project.

Mrs Foster replied that it was important for the community to lobby the Government.

The Wokingham Conservatives have launched a campaign calling for the Trust to select Thames Valley Science Park as the site for the new hospital.

In the next few years, the ‘Building Berkshire Together’ team will have to submit an outline and full business case with its final option for the redevelopment to go ahead.