|Royal Berks Hospital - Time To Move On?|
Recent years have seen it weather the ups and downs of leadership and financial challenges and the constant pressure of meeting external standards and targets.
All the while the RBH, having absorbed the workings of the former Battle Hospital in west Reading, has been expanding within the tight constraints of it's London Road site.
But are we now rapidly approaching a point where the continued presence of the RBH at its current location is no longer sustainable?
While the hospital is well served by local bus services, it is apparent to many patients or visitors that the provision for car parking is reaching - or may have already reached - breaking point.
As a local resident who lives close to the hospital I have often witnessed desperate looking car drivers patrolling the residential streets around the hospital searching for a parking place. And sometimes these visitors park where are are not entitled to - so causing inconvenience and irritation to local residents.
While these pressures are mostly keenly observed on a Monday to Friday, 8.00am to 6.00pm rota, the government's push for 7 day working in the NHS will only further add to these problems.
Other towns may have shown the way to finding a better balance between serving the needs of patients, visitors and local residents: in Oxford, the former city centre based Radcliffle Infirmary was consolidated on a new site near the Oxford ring road at the modern "JR"; in Swindon a similar move was made by the Great Western Hospital to a site near the M4; in Basingstoke plans have been drawn up for a new hospital adjacent to the M3.
Here in Reading we also have a great example of a strategic move of a much loved local organisation which attracted visitors, both local and beyond the borough boundaries, from a historic site surrounded by Victorian terraces with no room for expansion, out to a modern facility near the M4 - this, of course, was Reading Football Club's move from Elm Park to the Mad Stad.
Should we asking the same of the RBH?
It's historic location has no room for expansion and is ill-suited to any further increase in vehicle traffic, so should it now look to finding a new base at Green Park or somewhere similar?
Local residents in Redlands are increasingly saying "time for the RBH to go" and, in doing so, could free up some valuable off town centre land for housing.