Tuesday, 09 August 2022

Caversham Heights Society

MEMBERS heard talks on two very different topics during March.

The first talk, on March 1, was by Dr Robert Taynton, a retired GP and chairman of the charity responsible for the building and oversight of the West Berkshire Community Hospital.

He talked about the difficulties and frustrations concerning the establishment of the hospital with passion, humour and resignation.

In 1987 Rosemary Brook, apparently a rather formidable lady, left a plot of land between Thatcham and Newbury for the building of a community hospital to replace the existing one, which was a fire hazard and no longer fit for purpose.

The land was sold for
£7 million and in 1996 a charity was established to oversee the planning and development of the project.

It took five years of battling obstacles and objections from a variety of organisations and interested bodies, including the Department of Health and the Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS Trust, before, in 2004, the DoH agreed to Private Finance Initiative money being granted.

Like many critics of Gordon Brown’s policy to use private funds to build public projects, the speaker was very critical of its impact on the NHS since hospitals have been left with having to pay millions of pounds to private financial companies (in this case the Nationwide Building Society) for mortgages of up to 30 years to the companies that built the hospitals (in this case Jarvis, which went into liquidation four years ago).

Nationwide originally lent £18 million for 30 years during which time it owns the buildings and can (and has done) object to any changes to the structure of the buildings.

The West Berkshire Hospital can undertake digital
X-rays, linked to the Royal Berks, and has an operating theatre for endoscopies, a minor injury unit and physiotherapy and outpatients departments.

But there is no accident and emergency department, maternity unit or kidney dialysis unit.

There is an end-of-life unit but there needs to be an oncology department.

There is a desperate need for these, especially as 29 patients in West Berkshire have to travel to the Royal Berks three days a week for kidney dialysis.

The NHS recognises the need but Nationwide has blocked any hospital expansion on the grounds that it risks its investment.

Other objections have been raised by other hospitals, such as Prospect Park and the Royal Berks, even though the latter would benefit from another dialysis unit nearby.

On the evening of the talk it looked as if, finally, the DoH had given the green light for expansion to take place.

Fortunately, the Greenham Common Trust has offered
£1 million match-funding and the Cancer Care Trust has raised more than £2.6 million towards a £4.6 million target so, hopefully, an extension may be built soon.

This was a fascinating talk on an important subject and the audience was left in no doubt of the frustrations, obstacles and disappointments that NHS staff have to face on an ongoing basis. The second talk, on March 15, was given by Nigel Glover Wright and entitled “The Serengeti and Ndutu”.

We were entertained with a slide show of photographs of stunning African sunrises and sunsets and pictures of exotic birds and wildlife, taken by the speaker while on safari in the world’s largest game reserve.

Serengeti translates into “the land of endless space” and, judging by some of the photographs, it lives up to its name.

It would have been helpful to have had a map to show exactly where the game park is in relation to Tanzania and Kenya and to have been given some information about the management of the game park and the threats to wildlife given the increasing numbers of poachers. That apart, we were shown some spectacular photographs of cheetahs, leopards, lions, hyenas, jackals, giraffes, kingfishers, starlings, storks, herons, hammerhocks, hornbills and bee eaters, many with magnificent colourings so very different from their European cousins.

This was an evening for photographic enthusiasts.

The society meets in the hall of Caversham Methodist Church in Highmoor Road on alternate Wednesdays at 7.15pm.

For more information, visit cavershamheights.org or send an email to Carol Cozens at rooster10@btinternet.com or to our chairman at

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