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Guest Post: The Royal Berks and a tough winter by Bet Tickner

I’m pleased to host this guest post by Bet Tickner, former lead Councillor for Health on Reading Council and now a governor at the Royal Berkshire Hospital.  She highlights a concern for all of us interested in the NHS locally:

The Royal Berks Hospital has surely been damaged by recent negative publicity about a possible sale of its North Block on London Road. Clearly the local community and parents do not want a school on this site, and for good reason, nonetheless it is quite understandable that the hospital judge this Grade II listed building as not suitable for clinical use for a modern, busy hospital. It is also expensive to maintain – the frontage is currently masked by scaffolding while roof repairs are underway, for example. Importantly though, the hospital now faces an extremely challenging winter, with a Care Quality Commission (CQC) inspection announced for January.

 The grounds given for including RBH in the first round of inspections may seem odd in a number of ways (find out more about this on Reading Health Forum –, still it is a serious challenge for the hospital, and it’s right that the hospital prepares thoroughly to meet it. In addition, our local A&E is now treating around 100,000 patients annually, in a unit built for an annual intake of only 65,000 . On four days in October A&E at the RBH treated more than 300 patients per day. This is before winter, with its inevitable pressures, has set in.

Over the last few years government has allocated extra funds to acute hospital to cope with winter pressures, but this year only gave funding to selected A&E departments. These included Slough, Oxford, Basingstoke, but not RBH. Why was our hospital refused this funding when our A&E is sufficiently seriously overloaded to merit calling in the inspectors, I wonder? I doubt we will ever get a satisfactory answer to that question, but I believe we can accept as true the comments by Cliff Mann, the leader of Britain’s A&E doctors, who said this week “It’s not chaos in emergency departments, but it is a crisis”. Commenting on news that the number waiting longer than four hours in A&E departments in England rose in September this year to 69,268, compared with 48,283 in September 2011, an increase of 43%, he said this winter was shaping up to be the toughest the NHS had ever faced.

As ever though, we’re not all in this together.

 Bet Tickner Labour Cllr and Hospital Governor.

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