Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in protest at proposals by health chiefs to cut the number of beds at the new Townlands hospital to just five
Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets in protest at proposals by health chiefs to cut the number of beds at the new Townlands hospital to just five.
Road closures have been agreed for the march, which will set off from Market Place at 10am. The protesters will march along Bell Street, New Street, Thames Side and Hart Street before returning to the town hall for speeches. The event should be finished by 11.30am.
Among those who will be present are town councillors, GPs and Henley MP John Howell. The protest comes after residents called for stronger action if the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group did not change its plans for the £16 million ?health campus?.
Health chiefs had originally proposed to have 18 beds at the new hospital, four more than on the existing Peppard ward, but now want to ?buy? five at a care home to be built next to the hospital.
This would leave Townlands without any beds for at least six months from when the current hospital is demolished in November.
The beds would be replaced by a next-day ?rapid access care unit? in order for patients to be treated at home where possible.
A consultation by the commissioning group on the proposals ended on June 15 and the results are due to be presented to the board at a meeting on July 30.
An overview of the consultation process, along with some initial findings, was presented to Oxfordshire County Council?s joint health overview and scrutiny committee yesterday (Thursday ).
More than 3,000 people signed the Henley Standard?s Save Our Beds petition, which called for the original 18 beds to be reinstated. The petitions were handed in to the commissioning group on the last day of the consultation.
Town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, said: ?The commissioning group is claiming substantial support for its plans but it clearly hasn?t captured the feelings of everyone who opposed to those plans.
?The march is a key part of the campaign, which will have lots of different strands.
?It won?t just be Henley, it will be the 90,000 people identified as those depending on Townlands.
?We want to see all those people represented throughout the whole campaign so a very clear voice of the community can come across.?
The steering group has formally challenged the consultation, which it claimed was ?flawed.?
In 2005, more than 4,000 people took part in a march to save the hospital from closure, including then Henley MP Boris Johnson.
Cllr Reissmann said: ?We fought against the odds 10 years ago and won - now we are fighting again.
?We will make sure the wishes of the community are represented and that?s the best you can do.?
Mayor Lorraine Hillier said: ?The march is an answer to what everyone in the town was saying.
?In 2005 we marched to save Townlands Hospital and now we need to march to save the beds.
?The Henley Standard put that on the front page and everyone said, ?yes, let?s do it?.
?Let?s be proactive because it?s the people?s march and it?s important that we show there is strong feeling in Henley.
?We?ve got a hard fight on our hands but a march brings about awareness and gets people behind us.
?I?m looking for people to turn up in strength and join us on a nice, peaceful march around the town to show that people care.?
The road closures will be in place in Bell Street, New Street, Thames Side and Hart Street for about 15 minutes at a time.