COMMERCIAL: Royal Berkshire Foundation Trust is considering selling off its new Bracknell clinic just 18 months after it opened, because the facility is currently a “significant financial drain” on the organisation.

Trust board papers obtained by HSJ under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that the clinic, which focuses on cancer and renal services, is likely to post a loss of up to £4m in 2012-13.

“The facility represents a significant financial drain on the organisation,” the papers say, which has reduced the “flexibility of the trust’s cost base.” The Royal Berkshire’s main acute site is in Reading, in the west of the county, and the Bracknell clinic was established to bring more patients from the east of Berkshire by offering services close to their homes. However, that places it in direct competition with Heatherwood and Wexham Park Foundation Trust.

The drain the clinic is causing to the Royal Berkshire’s finances means that the board “must ensure that a solution is identified and implemented urgently”.

The papers, from November, recommended that the Royal Berkshire seek expert legal, corporate finance and/or operational support to ensure the centre is either “disposed of or, if this is not possible, incorporated into a coherent clinical estates strategy”.

The trust’s preferred option, to draw new activity from the Bracknell and Ascot clinical commissioning group through a joint venture with Frimley Park Foundation Trust has been “overtaken by events”, the papers say.

This was due to a change in direction initiated by the east Berkshire “Shaping the Future” strategy, aimed at ensuring the viability of acute services around Bracknell, Slough and Ascot.

The strategy proposes redeveloping nearby Heatherwood Hospital’s site to incorporate diagnostics and surgery, to shore up Heatherwood and Wexham Park Foundation Trust’s finances.

Royal Berkshire’s commercial directorate drafted a set of alternative options to its prefered choice, including selling off the Bracknell clinic and mothballing it.

The trust was aiming to work with local commissioners to agree an “amicable solution” by the end of 2012.