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Our neglected infrastructure: Schools and surgeries

Over a decade ago, the south of the borough was targeted for massively increased house building. But what infrastructure was put in place, to deal with the extra resident numbers? Let’s look at how far school places and patient-to-GP ratios have kept up with the increased population in our area.

Pressure on secondary school places in Shinfield and Arborfield has increased sharply since migration into the SDLs began in 2016-17. We can see this in the big increase there has been in names on waiting lists in the southern section of the borough’s catchment area:-


Secondary School Places Allocation, Southern section, Wokingham Borough, September 2016 and September 2022

NB: A child may appear appear on more than one waiting list. Waiting list totals are the total of names on lists, not of individual children.

Places 2016

Waiting 2016

Places 2022

Waiting 2022

Bohunt

180

0

240

123

Emmbrook

210

0

240

21

Forest

210

0

210

0

Holt

210

40

240

165

Oakbank

112

0

112

0

St Crispins

189

81

300

0

TOTAL

1,111

(121)

1,342

(309)

Sources: ‘WOKINGHAM BOROUGH SCHOOLS ALLOCATION OF PLACES FOR SEPTEMBER 2016’, ‘WOKINGHAM BOROUGH SCHOOLS ALLOCATION OF PLACES FOR SEPTEMBER 2022’


Notice that these schools have actually made more 231 places available than there were in 2016. But that hasn’t stopped the names on the waiting list from more than doubling since then!

Nor can we be sure that there's been an increase in the number of teachers hired and classrooms built since 2016, to provide the teaching and accommodation for those extra 231 places. We'd love to hear from parents or secondary teachers who know the position in their school.

These figures make it very clear:- The authorities waved through housing development but failed to provide the infrastructure needed to cope with extra numbers. The direct impact of their failure has fallen on our local children.

Pressure on medical centres in the south of the borough has also grown very considerably over recent years. A survey was held in 2019 of Wokingham Borough medical practices. It found

that the one with the lowest patient satisfaction level was in Shinfield. It’s not hard to see why, when you look at NHS figures for doctors and how many registered patients there are per GP in the various health centres in the borough:-


Patients per GP, Wokingham Borough, 2014 and 2022

Patients Sept. 2014*

GPs FTE*

Patients per GP FTE 2014

Patients Dec. 2022**

GPs FTE**

Patients per GP FTE 2022

% increase in patients per GP FTE 2014-22

Loddon Vale Woodley

26,232

15.46

1,697

28,254

11.78

2,399

41.4%

Twyford Wargrave

19,119

11.00

1,738

20,170

8.30

2,430

39.8%

Earley B'Side Wilderness

28,467

19.37

1,470

30,826

15.35

2,008

36.6%

Burma Hills Wok Med. C Woosehill

36.683

15.19

2,415

43,312

17.52

2,472

0.24%

Finchampstead

15,378

8.69

1,770

17,281

8.07

2,141

21.0%

Shinf/S Rdg Swallowfield

19,376

8.80

2,202

26,054

7.35

3,545

61.0%

* General Practice 2014 practice level: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/general-and-personal-medical-services/2004-2014-as-at-30-september

** General Practice 2022 practice level: https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/general-and-personal-medical-services#latest-statistics

The data, taken directly from published NHS sources, show the severe disadvantage we suffer in our area. Most practices, it is true, have seen an increase in their patient-to-GP ration, caused partly by a decline in GP numbers. But in the Shinfield/Sth. Reading and Swallowfield practices, that has gone along with a huge rise in population numbers too. It’s taken the patients-per-GP figure in our area to over 3,500, way above the average for the borough as a whole.

Proof once again that the housing explosion in our area has gone ahead with little or no regard for residents’ infrastructure needs. Other areas of the borough are not expected to manage with grossly substandard medical provision, so why Shinfield and Swallowfield?

This statement was made 3 years ago by a residents’ campaign at a planning appeal hearing:-


‘We are concerned that the GP permanent establishments in our area, which are already insufficient, face increases in patient numbers with the large amount of consented but unbuilt dwellings in the Shinfield SDL. Adding to the problem by building additional housing… would further put at risk the healthcare entitlements of local residents.’

Nothing seems to have been done since then to address the problem.


NOW IMAGINE WHAT IT WOULD BE LIKE IF WE HAD AN EXTRA 4,500 HOUSES BUILT ON HALL FARM!


Written by Pat Phillipps

Photos by Paul Stevens

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