Sunday, 22 April 2018

Groans and Raspberries - the people’s verdict

IT was with huge anticipation that we waited to hear more detail on the proposed future

IT was with huge anticipation that we waited to hear more detail on the proposed future of services at Townlands Hospital.

I, like many others, arrived at the town hall early to be sure of a seat and by 7pm the hall was almost full.

One of those was Judith Phelan, of Deanfield Road, who made her way up and down the rows of seats taking signatures for the

Henley Standard’s
Save Our Beds petition. She thanked me for our campaign.

Meanwhile, there were 100 or so people left outside unable to get past Mike Kennedy, the town clerk, who was armed with a clicker to keep tabs on numbers.



They were understandably upset at being refused entry to the public meeting but apparently they fell foul of the fire regulations on numbers.

So, with all seats occupied and about 20 more standing, proceedings began with town councillor Ian Reissmann, the meeting’s chairman, asking those present to make sure they were polite. This drew a few ironic titters from the full house.

It became clear early on that the vast majority of the seated public were concerned about the proposed reduction in beds which would follow the expected closure of Peppard ward in November.

Despite the best efforts of Peter McGrane, clinical director at Oxfordshire Health, in explaining how the new ambulatory care model would work, he wasn’t saying what people wanted to hear.

One woman behind me wasn’t impressed, telling her friend: “I am very tempted to pick up my stuff and walk out.”

Dr Andrew Burnett, a Sonning Common GP and member of the commissioning group, tried to justify the plans, saying: “We just don’t think we need these beds.”

One woman just blew a raspberry.

Raelene Clarke, who was pictured with her husband John on the front page of last week’s

Henley Standard
, drew a few enquiring looks as she walked to the front of the room and asked if she could address the audience. Cllr Reissmann refused and she returned to her seat but she would have her say about adult social care during the public participation session.

There was a cheer when Hannah Mills, the commissioning group’s head of contracting and procurement, confirmed that the Maurice Tate community room, which had not been included in the new hospital plans, would be retained.

She then passed the microphone back to Mr McGrane and he was greeted with an audible groan.

Next up were two of our beloved GPs, Chris Langley and Philip Unwin, from the Bell and Hart surgeries respectively.

They were introduced as the town’s trusted experts and both, while applauding the new proposed services, said they remained “unconvinced” about the need to reduce the number of hospital beds at this stage.

Both doctors received several rounds of applause for their analysis of the proposals, maintaining that if the beds were removed now it would be “irreversible.”

Cllr Reissmann then opened up public participation but said it would last just 30 minutes, which wasn’t well-received.

He said he would be taking five questions at a time from the floor which would then be answered.

This didn’t work entirely to plan as the panel would then answer the main points raised rather than all the questions individually.

Thus many left the hall with more questions than answers — despite the hand-out with pre-prepared questions and answers on a table as you left.

One woman was clearly dissatisfied, claiming: “It seems like a done deal to me.”

Like many others there, I know how she felt.

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