Healthcare in the UK has long been a bottomless pit into which successive Governments have shovelled cash.
Numerous reforms have taken place over many decades, costing many billions.
So how did we end up with leaking, creaking, Third World hospitals where scores of buckets to catch the rainwater are on the shopping list; where millions of pounds is spent on maintaining buildings that cannot even be used for clinical purposes and where the waiting lists are getting longer, not because of the lack of staff, but because the buildings are inadequate?
Our members-only event in conjunction with Building Berkshire Together on November 2 was a true eye-opener. The team, led by Alison Foster, has long been honest and transparent about the inadequacy of the real estate at the Royal Berks but having the mounting problems explained to them, our delegates were left in no doubt about the urgency of the situation.
That’s not even to mention the notorious parking problems. Last week off-site parking options for staff were announced. People who use the RBH would surely want staff treating them to be able to park stress-free, but when there simply isn’t the space, no solution will be perfect.
And when you are sick or injured, no amount of green travel plans, cycle lanes or public transport initiatives can substitute for being able to get to hospital by car. The climate emergency fanatics won’t be getting their push bikes out to go to A&E when they are injured.
But parking aside, last Wednesday our members saw for themselves the inefficiency that such a cramped hotchpotch of buildings from various eras creates.
Meanwhile, an underused location close to the Thames is lying derelict.
Thames Valley Park, partly due to its disparate ownership, has many thousands of square feet of unused office space on many acres of unused land. Some of its buildings have been reinvented as the likes of Microsoft shrink in size, but many on the park’s northern edge have been lying empty for years.
In fact, office buildings are being stripped out, we have been told, so that empty building rates are avoided.
One of the trends in modern hospitals is having nature nearby. Trees and greenery close to a river is not going to be found easily.
There would have even been a very well-placed park & ride nearby if Wokingham Borough Council had not pulled the plug on the East Reading Mass Rapid Transit scheme, leaving a car park awaiting any real purpose.
So there’s a hospital needing a site, a pleasant site needing development and an underused car park a few hundred yards away.
Such a move would offer savings in money, improved health, reduced waiting lists, improvement to the struggling business park and allow for options for development of the current RBH site.
It just needs the Government to invest sensibly. But let’s try to be optimistic, nonetheless.
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