Rishi Sunak grilled on new Reading hospital delays

The project to build a new hospital in Reading would receive an ‘indicative’ sum of £700 million in funding after the NHS Trust in charge of the hospital submitted a business case for the upgrade earlier this year.

The update was revealed ahead of a landmark interview between BBC Berkshire radio host Andrew Peach and Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Steve McManus Chief Executive of Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust announced that the government’s New Hospital Programme has ‘indicated’ that it will provide £650-700 million for a rebuild.

Mr McManus clarified: “That’s just a starting envelope that we’re working with.

“We actually think there is probably a greater sum that we actually need if we are looking at a significant development either on the current Royal Berks Hospital site, or if we need to think about a different site.”

Other sites floated could be in South Reading, or Thames Valley Park in Earley or Thames Valley Science Park in Shinfield, which are both in Wokingham Borough.

Reading Chronicle: Thames Valley Science Park in Shinfield, south of Reading. Credit: Google MapsThames Valley Science Park in Shinfield, south of Reading. Credit: Google Maps

Mr Peach then confronted PM Sunak with the figure, and news that the Reading hospital development would be delayed into the 2030s, rather than the originally envisaged 2030 completion date.

Mr Peach said: “The government is offering £700 million, which is nowhere near enough to build a new hospital, it’s just enough to do up the existing one, and the new hospital has already been pushed back by three years.”

READ MORE: New Reading hospital one of eight projects delayed until 2030s

PM Sunak said: “Look, there have been delays to the completion of work at Royal Berks, and that is very much a reflection of the disruption that two years of covid has caused.

“I know the Department of Health are in discussions with the hospital given the problems on the existing site.

“That had already made the original completion date I think quite stretching, but very much the government is engaging, doing everything it can to try and accelerate the completion timeline if that is possible.

Reading Chronicle: Royal Berkshire Hospital (Credit: Royal Berkshire Hospital Trust)Royal Berkshire Hospital (Credit: Royal Berkshire Hospital Trust)

“Look, this is part of our record investment in the NHS, making sure that we do develop 40 new hospitals across England by 2030, we’re committed to that, we’ve planned to deliver that.

“And we’re also doing lots of other things, the other thing I’d point to is that we’re rolling out community diagnostic centres across the country. These are new places in the community where people can go and get the checks, the tests, the scans that they need without having to go to the big hospitals.

“They really help people get the treatment they need quicker, cut waiting lists, and we’ve got something like 20 odd across the South East including one in Slough.

“I think people will really see the benefits quickly of innovations and investment like that.”

PM Sunak is the Conservative MP for Richmond, Yorkshire.

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