A new outpatients’ block is being planned for the Royal Berkshire Hospital (RBH), which would stay even if the hospital moves to a new location.

In an online meeting on September 6, involving the team working on options for the new RBH along with other stakeholders, a presentation was shown by architects for redeveloping onsite.

Sheila Carney, director for Scott Tallon Walker, told the September 6 meeting of a three-phase plan costing around £750 million.

The first £250m phase would start with a new data centre and an outpatient and ‘ambulatory’ building at West Drive on the Redlands Road side of the site.

It would be intended to remain even if the hospital moved. If the hospital is redeveloped onsite, a series of department moves around the site would follow.

Reading Borough Council has been consulted on how high new buildings could be on the site but a redeveloped RBH would also have to include green space. Efforts are currently being made to solve the site’s RBH’s parking problems including a possible park & ride service for both staff and patients.

Alison Foster, programme director for the redevelopment programme Building Berkshire Together, said if the hospital does stay on site, key issues of transport, travel and access have to be solved.

Moving offsite has been costed at around £1.1 to £1.3 billion and the last estimate of what the trust could get for the current site was less than £100m.

Guests spoke for and against moving sites. Dr Prem Sharma, father of Reading West MP Alok, spoke in favour of staying onsite.

But, in response to a guest suggesting a preference for a move, Alison Foster said: “The New Hospitals Programme (NHP) was set up to delivery efficiencies, to deliver a whole range of hospitals at scale.

“The best way they can deliver at-scale efficiencies is if you can build new hospitals, not refurbished, because you get a fresh start and it lasts longer, the return on investment over the 50-year lifecycle is better and you can do them quicker without affecting patient care.

“They (NHP) are making the case where people have said ‘we need £1.3bn to deliver the services we need on a new site’.

“They will be taking that figure and making a case to say, ‘right, we’ve got 20 of these that need to be done but we are going to standardise the wards, we’re going to centralise some of this – therefore £1.3bn might be £900m because we are going to make these efficiencies’.”

Image: Juan J. Martínez from Exeter, UK, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

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