Saturday, 5 April 2014

Does The Royal Berks Hospital Have A Future?

This may be a case of speaking the unspeakable, but reading through the pages of this week's Reading Chronicle I began to wonder if the already beleaguered Royal Berks Hospital really has a long-term future.

First there's a report of the RBH board meeting last week which suggests the future of the hospital hinges on a massive £15.5million cut to a "challenging budget", including £9.25m to pay, in the year ahead.

Then there's a report of a possible loss of a £1m sexual health contract with the some lack of clarity as to whether "hospital bean counters" (a charming expression!) had factored this in to the aforesaid budget.

Another director hits out at the "appalling" conditions some staff are forced to work in.

Also a report on increased waiting time for cancer patients while a broken scanner gets fixed, with an admission that "In hindsight it was foreseeable, but it slipped under the radar".

Add to this a sixth successive failure to meet Accident and Emergency waiting times and continuing concerns over clinical errors.

Given the recent upheavals and swift departures of the board chairman followed by the chief executive, there's little wonder that some now sense a growing unease about the place. 

One remedy may be to put up big signs saying "Under new management" and hope for the best against a back ground of all this tumult.

But then a letter to the Chroicle's editor reminds us that the Tory MP for Bracknell apparently wants to "merge" (close!) Ascot's Heatherwood Hospital and the hospitals at Frimley Park, Wexham Park and the RBH and replace them with a "super hospital" on one of the M4 junctions. 

Has the Bracknell MP let the cat out of the bag? 

Is the current malaise at the RBH simply a way of making the search for an alternative more palatable? 

It is certainly the case that the RBH consistently fails to fulfil any responsilitibies to the immediate neighbourhood around the London Road campus - claiming it is a "regional hospital" when local residents demand more attention to car parking.

In the 1990s I fought a campaign against the health authorities turning the iconic north block in to a hotel. More lately the RBH entered into a bonkers dalliance with Tory MP Rob Wilson to use it as a secondary school. 

Before the last general election David Cameron promised no "top down" reorganisation of the NHS - then when in power, embarked upon the greatest reorganisation and privatisation of the NHS since it was set up by Labour's Nye Bevan in 1948.

You can't trust the Tories with the NHS. 

And no one should take the continued presence of the RBH in our town for granted - if we do, it may be gone before we know it.

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