STRUCTURE: NHS bosses in Berkshire have confirmed that Heatherwood Hospital has a long-term future as part of the local health economy.

The announcement comes ahead of the launch of a “pre-consultation” on the local health economy. The full consultation, under the banner of “Shaping the Future”, will follow in the autumn.

The hospital is run by Heatherwood and Wexham Park Foundation Trust, which HSJ revealed earlier this month has secured a strategic health authority bail out to keep it afloat.

However it is still not clear how the trust will attract capital investment needed to upgrade the site. HSJ expects a partner – from either the NHS or private sectors – will be brought in either to take ownership of Heatherwood or run it as a franchise. In future a mix of primary, community and acute organisations could provide services from the site.

Berkshire primary care trust cluster chief executive Charles Waddicor said: “We thought it was important to confirm our thinking around Heatherwood at the earliest opportunity given the level of public interest in the future of the hospital.

“Although a lot of detail still needs to be worked out, we can say categorically that Heatherwood will form an important part of future healthcare provision, as will all our other local hospitals and the Bracknell HealthSpace [primary care led facility].

“Change does not mean reduction – what we are saying is that we are looking at solutions that give a future to much valued local facilities and give opportunities to provide care in ways that give the best possible outcomes for patients.”

However, he confirmed that Heatherwood’s Ascot Birth Centre, which closed last year, will not reopen as the trust is “not in a position to provide this service”.

Apart from this, the announcement fails to explain which services will be based at Heatherwood in future. The hospital currently provides elective surgery alongside rehabilitation and minor injuries services.

HSJ understands that the volume of elective work is considered too great to move onto the trust’s Wexham Park district general hospital site, and is thought likely to remain at Heatherwood in the long-term. However outpatient work could be provided elsewhere in the local health economy.

Heatherwood and Wexham Park chief executive Philippa Slinger said: “A future without Heatherwood simply does not stack up.

“We know there is still lots to do to bring both Heatherwood and Wexham Park up to the required standard for 21st century healthcare – but we hope this announcement will reassure people that Heatherwood has a long-term future.”