Will Bracknell lose out in a ‘postcode lottery’ when Frimley Park Hospital moves to a new location? That’s the worry some people in Bracknell have as NHS bosses begin preparing for the move.

A bigger, better state of the art hospital has been promised to patients and staff at Frimley Health Trust. But for that to happen the hospital will have to move, NHS bosses say.

Yet the prospect of any move is immediately a concern for people in Bracknell – who already have to cross counties to Frimley in Surrey, some ten miles from our town centre.

Caroline Egglestone and Tony Virgo are the two councillors tasked with speaking up for Bracknell as NHS bosses develop their plans. And they know why residents have concerns.

READ MORE: Two thirds of Frimley Park Hospital contains RAAC concrete

“I was approached by a nurse in a shop wanting to know what is happening with Frimley,” councillor Virgo told the News. "I’d been talking to the shop owner about Frimley, and the nurse wanted to know what was happening with it – because we don’t know.

“I think there’s a building up of anxiety because it’s such a vital service. We depend on it and it’s got a good reputation. We don’t want to suffer because suddenly it becomes too difficult to get there.”

Councillor Egglestone who works for the NHS – though not for Frimley – said the move could also impact other hospitals. If Frimley’s new hospital is further away, some borough residents could end up using the Royal Berkshire in Reading or Wexham Park in Slough.

She told the News: “It could be a bit of a postcode lottery as Frimley have more or less stated that the new hospital wouldn't necessarily be first choice for all of our residents.

“Even if it’s a small percentage of Frimley Park’s patients, if you add that pressure onto Wexham Park or the Royal Berkshire that could have the potential to overwhelm them.”

Plans to build a new hospital for Frimley were announced in May last year. Trust bosses say two thirds of the hospital building contains the crumbly RAAC concrete – so it has to be demolished. And they say the current site is too small to house the size of the new hospital needed.

Top officials told Bracknell Forest councillors in February that they were drawing up a shortlist of new sites. They acknowledged that even a move of half a mile from the current site could affect people from Bracknell Forest.

Bracknell News: A map of Frimley Park Hospital - where areas in orange show buildings containing RAAC concreteA map of Frimley Park Hospital - where areas in orange show buildings containing RAAC concrete (Image: Frimley NHS Foundation Trust)

Councillors Egglestone and Virgo will represent those residents on a new committee of ten councillors that will scrutinise the hospital’s plans. But while Bracknell Forest will get two members, Surrey and Hampshire county councils each get four.

That’s because a bigger proportion of Frimley’s patients come from those two counties. Councillor Virgo acknowledged concerns that this could make Bracknell Forest the ‘lower cousin’.

And while the new committee won’t get the final say over any decision – including the new location – our two councillors say they’ll want to make sure it all works for Bracknell’s residents.

And they stress that they’ll work together without politics getting in the way – Egglestone is from the Labour Party while Virgo is a Conservative.

“We’re going to represent all of the residents from whatever background, whatever area within Bracknell to ensure the best that we can that their needs are still met as they have been to this date with Frimley,” said councillor Egglestone.

She said this doesn’t just mean having a say over the location itself. It also means making sure that public transport and road links to the new hospital work for Bracknell people too – and that patients needing care will have somewhere to be discharged to.

The pair will also get a say over other aspects of the hospital. One thing they’re both concerned about is that the new hospital will have entirely single rooms – a government requirement for new hospitals.

It’s good for privacy, but Egglestone and Virgo both worry that patients could get lonely – or even worse, that problems that might otherwise be spotted by patients could be missed.

But for all those concerns, the councillors are optimistic about the benefits a new hospital could bring too.

“This is going to be a state-of-the-art facility – so we're not just looking for more of the same. We're looking for better,” said councillor Virgo. “This is a great chance for a new hospital – this is fantastic, but it’s our job to get the details right.”

To get those details right, the two councillors want your help. “We want the feedback from your readers so we can see if there’s anything we as councillors have overlooked,” councillor Egglestone said.

It’s a way for Bracknell’s people to have a say too – and have a fighting chance in the ‘postcode lottery.’