Friday, 21 January 2022

Your letters...

Care service is inferior

Sir, — We write in response to the letter from Diane Hedges, deputy chief executive of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, about the provision of palliative care beds (Standard, November 12).

We apologise that this letter is long but this is a complex area which needs careful thought.

Readers will be aware that the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed closed more than two years ago.

Until a few years ago, 12 specialist palliative care beds were provided at Nettlebed. Now there are no inpatient end of life palliative care beds in South Oxfordshire to serve a population of 140,000 residents.

Those 12 beds were served by three consultants, and specialist palliative care nurses. Round the clock care was provided, which was universally admired and praised.

The commissioning group is now proposing to have two beds at Wallingford Community Hospital.

The nurses will be provided with some palliative care training but the level of care will not be the same.

End of life palliative care is a specialist field, which everyone knows was ably demonstrated at the Sue Ryder hospice.

The commissioning group claims that the charity’s “hospice at home” service is an effective replacement service for that provided at Nettlebed.

However, as Diane Hedges herself points out, this service is only provided 8am to 8pm.

Prior to the hospice closure, specialist consultants would be available to manage prescriptions and blood tests, for example.

Now this falls on to local GPs who are already stretched to breaking point and do not have the specialist skills needed to manage these patients and their complex needs.

In addition, a day service was provided at Nettlebed. This has now also been transferred to patients’ homes. Once again the level of care provided has been reduced.

While the coronavirus pandemic may have been a factor, there is no physical central location where this day service can be provided post-pandemic as the space is not available.

When the Nettlebed hospice closed, we were assured that Sobell House in Oxford and the Duchess of Kent hospice in Reading would be able to provide inpatient services when needed.

Neither of these two hospices has been open to patients from South Oxfordshire for some considerable time.

This represents another reduction in the level of service that we can reasonably expect.

So the questions to be asked are:

• Will the Wallingford beds have specialist nursing care, on-site specialist doctors and access to consultants when needed?

• What are the criteria for getting into these beds?

• Are patients with complex needs going into hospital or this new unit at Wallingford?

• Why has Sue Ryder been allowed to reduce the level of service, for example, for prescriptions and blood tests?

• How can the replacement of the multiple services at Nettlebed by reduced quality and quantity of services be justified?

Diane Hedges stated that for the over-75s the death rate in hospital has not increased. This conveniently misses the point about under- 75s. What about the younger people who die needing residential care?

We also call upon the commissioning group to publish the data that rigorously assesses the “need” for only two residential beds for a population of 140,000.

It also needs to make an estimate for the 700,000 population of the whole of Oxfordshire.

The commissioning group has repeatedly justified the figure of two beds based on the provision of two Oxfordshire beds at Nettlebed prior to closure.

This was solely due to the squeeze on the service for several years prior to closure, forcing patients to access services other than via in patient beds.

This confusion of provision with need is misleading at best. A rigorous assessment of need is urgently required.

The Thames Hospice in Bray is providing 28 residential beds and it is this level of service that we should be expecting from our clinical commissioning group.

We do not accept that South Oxfordshire patients should be provided with fewer and inferior services than those provided in Berkshire.

Some end of life patients wish to die at home cared for by the wonderful Sue Ryder hospice at home service.

But what about the large number who wish, for various reasons, to be cared for in a hospice?

This is fundamentally about patient choice of how they wish to die with care and dignity. This choice is being denied to the most vulnerable patients.

Currently the commissioning group is not providing the funding and level of end of life palliative care that Oxfordshire residents expect. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, Henley Town Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and Oxfordshire County Council, and Ian
Reissmann, chairman, Townlands Steering Group

Let’s try not having lights

I walked into Henley on Sunday rather than drive and battle with the traffic congestion caused by the temporary three-way system in force.

As expected, the queues were extensive up White Hill and throughout the town.

When I walked back the temporary lights had failed and there was not a single queue anywhere, nor crowds of pedestrians trying to cross roads. Everything was flowing easily.

Of course, this has happened before and always with the same result — free-flowing traffic and, with it, the benefits of lower pollution due to absence of lines of stationary traffic in the town, which is the norm with the current system.

Isn’t it time that the authorities were brave enough to experiment with this alternative? — Yours faithfully,

R Emerson


Speed signs not working

Further to J Todd’s letter about the problem of speeding in King’s Road, Henley, (Standard, November 12), it is clear that the 20mph signs are ineffectual.

They are completely disregarded by all, as a few minutes of observation makes clear, and so have been a waste of public money.

The speed of many drivers is in fact well in excess of 30mph, particularly at the end of the working day, and is a clear danger.

Common sense suggests that speed bumps, possibly in combination with a chicane, would solve the problem permanently and effectively.

As a first step, would a member of the council be prepared to undertake a series of observations (or possibly attempt to cross the road), particularly between the hours of 4pm and 6pm? — Yours faithfully,

Marilyn Shah

York Road, Henley

We’ve ruined natural world

Sir, — The UK is one of the world’s most nature- depleted countries.

A report by the Natural History Museum blames the UK for leading the world in destroying the natural environment and places the UK in the bottom 10 per cent of countries (

What have we done to saddle ourselves with this shameful label?

Since the Second World War we have lost 97 per cent of our wildflower meadows, an area of three million hectares (the area of Wales is two million hectares), and we have bulldozed and burnt 120,000km of hedgerows.

Woods were treated likewise — nature’s home replaced with food for humans.

With the UK and world populations soaring, more food was needed and farmers were forced (many against their wishes) to adopt intensive agricultural methods.

This required the application of artificial fertiliser and spraying crops with pesticides. It did grow more food and those remote from reality called this “success” the Green Revolution. Was this the first misuse of the word green?

Since 1970 diurnal insect numbers have crashed and no longer splatter windscreens. Bird numbers have plummeted by 40 million (RSPB). Hedgehogs, once commonplace. are now a rare sight.

Having got ourselves into this nature-depleted mess by adding tens of millions of people and trying (and failing) to feed 68 million people, the only way to unsaddle ourselves from this shameful label is to hand back vast areas of land to the rightful indigenous owner, nature.

This degree of rewilding is only possible by reducing the UK population by tens of millions. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Chandler

Lea Road, Sonning Common

Good time to go, John

Sir, — I read the recent letters regarding our MP with interest.

I have listened to John Howell speaking at Zoom meetings and have had the opportunity to ask questions. I also regularly correspond with him.

He reportedly suggested when he was last re-elected that he would stand down at the end of this parliament.

He has represented us since 2008 and I believe the Henley constituency now needs a new, free-thinking, more dynamic and proactive representative.

I believe now would be a good time for the constituency if John would confirm that he will not be standing again at the next general election. — Yours faithfully,

Mark Hatt

South Stoke Road, Woodcote

Welcome decisions

Sir, — The Henley Society truly believes that people pressure properly harnessed does have an effect, nowhere better illustrated than in the refusal of two planning applications, which we considered undesirable, in the past week.

Firstly, following the representations of the society, neighbours and Henley Town Council, the owner’s appeal against South Oxfordshire District Council’s refusal to grant permission for eight flats with associated parking at Parkside/Pack and Prime Lane was dismissed.

This is a protected woodland site comprising many trees with protection orders and is home to bats, deer and many species of bird. Secondly, a repeat application to construct five flats on the site of one house in Harcourt Close was refused on the grounds that by virtue of its scale, massing and amount of hard landscaping, it represented overdevelopment of the site and would be totally out of keeping with the established character of the surrounding built form.

Again, the representations of the society, together with those of neighbours and the town council, bore fruit.

It is beginning to sound as if the society objects to everything. This, however, is not true as our planning committee vets and comments on some 300 planning applications each year before they go before the town and district council for determination.

Many of them we are able to pass through without comment.

To read more about the society’s activities, please visit www.the — Yours faithfully,

Geoff Luckett

Chairman, the Henley Society

Train service is vital

I take issue with Vivien Pheasant, who wishes to reduce the frequency of services on the Henley branch line just because of exhaust fumes.

The fact that the services are carrying passengers means that they are required.

I strongly suspect that she uses her car for any evening journeys and does not like trains.

If you live close to a railway line, then there are both noise and fumes whatever form of unit is used and Great Western Railway has to look after its engines, so the exhaust from a warm unit is probably less than from a cold one, just like with a diesel car.

Recently I sat and enjoyed watching the traffic on the River Thames, which was fine until numerous diesel- engined pleasure cruisers passed and the air changed to a fug of exhaust smoke so boat engines obviously don’t have the same stringent rules as trains.

I am sure Mrs Pheasant would like to have seen the line electrified — we all would — and maybe in the long term, GWR will be able to acquire some battery trains to operate the route but that technology is still being developed and is expensive.

She referred to Neil Gunnell’s letter. As a volunteer, he has done a lot to try to help many on and around the Henley/Twyford services.

If Mrs Pheasant is anti-train, then she should move away.

Every passenger service on the line reduces car usage and is vital. — Yours faithfully,

Mark D Jameson


Benches will be returned

Editor, — I’d like to respond to the points raised by your correspondents about Greys Court (Standard, November 12).

Accessibility is extremely important to us at Greys Court. There are four disabled parking spaces next to the house.

Over the pandemic period, parking built up around the Oval Lawn, which affected visitors’ experience of Greys Court.

Our aim was to reduce parking near the house, not prevent those with a genuine need from parking there. We’re really sorry that this was not communicated clearly.

I’m delighted to say that a new buggy will be arriving in the next few weeks to take visitors who cannot or don’t want to walk from the main visitor car park directly to the house, garden and tea room.

We’ve also been working hard across the estate to build accessible boardwalks and remove stiles from walking routes.

Seating was removed during the pandemic on government advice. While in storage it became clear that many of the historic benches needed restoration work.

We’re working with our curators on seating solutions that are appropriate for the Grade II listed landscape.

However, the two benches referred to that were vandalised several years ago will be prioritised and their replacements will be in place, overlooking the view, in spring next year.

I agree that we need to do more to show our volunteers how much we value their knowledge, experience and generous gifts of time.

Two months ago, we recruited a new volunteering and community officer to improve the flow of communication to, from and with our volunteers.

Personally, I’m looking forward to spending more time with the team over the next few months. — Yours faithfully,

Rob Hayes

National Trust general manager, Greys Court

Schoolboy science

Sir, — I am writing with reference to your article about the new solar panels at Toad Hall garden centre (Standard, November 19).

May I first commend the garden centre for its actions on energy?

The article was badly let down by the use of basic (i.e. GCSE level) science. As everyone who receives a bill for electricity should know, we pay for electrical energy, not power.

The kilowatt-hour is an energy unit used for relatively large amounts.

Its abbreviation is kWh, the lower case k is a multiplier meaning x1000, a capital W is the correct abbreviation for the unit watt and the h for hour is multiplied by the number of kilowatts.

The earlier reference to kw/h is totally meaningless. Power, in watt, is the rate of using energy (1 W = 1 J/s or joule of energy per second). To divide this by time creates a nonsense. — Yours faithfully,

Tony Taylor

Knappe Close, Henley

Please help youth festival

Sir, — The 28th Henley Youth Festival will take place from March 5 to 13, 2022 with a theme of “Friendship”.

The festival was established to celebrate and encourage talent and achievement of the young people of Henley and its surrounding areas and to give them experiences across a wide range of activities that they might not otherwise encounter.

But this shouldn’t be taken for granted. All of this is funded by sponsor donations, the generosity of the festival’s Friends and our volunteer team who give their time and energy to keep the show on the road.

For example, in 2020 the Henley Youth Festival timetabled 3,200 workshop places and 150 hours of educational workshops for all 16 primary schools in the Henley area.

But this all takes planning and we need volunteers to help co-ordinate this so that these events can continue.

Unfortunately, we have recently lost a significant proportion of our volunteers, so this is a call to arms to all parents and others who want to ensure such a great festival is there for the next generation of young people in the Henley area. We need your help.

You can get involved as much or as little as you like — you can help support us by becoming a Friend, which includes an invitation to our exclusive launch event in January.

Alternatively, you can volunteer. We need everyone from chaperones for performances or parents who can help publicise events in their children’s schools.

We also have more professional roles and are currently looking for event co-ordinators and stage managers.

It is all a great experience and you will be helping continue this wonderful event for years to come.

If you’re interested, please come and speak to us at our stall at the Henley Christmas Festival tonight (Friday).

Alternatively, please visit or email

We look forward to running a fantastic Henley Youth Festival in March 2022. — Yours faithfully,

Laura Matthews

Chair, Henley Youth Festival

Ideal place for ice rink

Sir, — Even though I can barely skate, I completely agree with the new town manager that it would be a wonderful idea to have a Christmas ice rink in Henley (Standard, November 19).

There’s one obvious location that’s already well signposted. Where better than “Christmas at Toad Hall”? — Yours faithfully,

Simon Barnett

Lower Assendon

Innocent, simple days

Sir, — What seems like a million years ago, I and my family lived in your wonderful town of Henley.

In a moment of madness, my father had decided to give up his job and buy a very small family grocers shop in Reading Road.

Called R G Bennett, it was probably a time capsule of post-war Britain.

My parents started as novices and sort of learnt as they went along.

In the end they became fairly successful and we had five years of happy times and happy memories.

My younger brother attended Friar Park Convent and I went to the grammar school at the top of Gravel Hill. Neither of us achieved very much academically but later in life my brother became a successful businessman while I, after a fairly feckless attempt at various careers, finished up living in Suffolk as a passable painter from which I have made a reasonable living over the years.

Henley then was a small country town that came alive once a year for the regatta and then sunk back into its sleepy hollow. In those days my father delivered groceries to the surrounding countryside in a little van and this was always a chance for me to see the wonderful countryside that is part of South Oxfordshire.

I remember once the van getting stuck in a snowdrift at Christmas Common and being dug out by a passing funeral cortège. In the summer we would travel along the lanes with rivers of rabbits flowing across the road in front of us. Innocent and rather simple days that have no bearing on the times we live in now.

Several years ago my partner and I stayed in a hotel on the river front so that I could show her my memories. Of course, the Henley that I knew had disappeared, which was sad.

But it still had its mostly unchanged physical identity and had retained its overall charm. Long may it continue. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Bennett

Blythburgh, Suffolk

Positive experience

Sir, — There is so much negativity in our society today, so here is something on a brighter and more caring note.

On Sunday, I burst a washing machine tab and inadvertently squirted strong detergent concentrate into my eye.

Needless to say, it was extremely painful and following the packet instructions, after being unable to deal with it myself, I went to the minor injuries unit in Henley.

The traffic was appalling at the bridge from Wargrave to Henley as it had been for a few days (the only negative part of this story) but on arrival at Townlands I was seen immediately by a delightful member of staff who very kindly and efficiently dealt with my problem.

She spent a long time sluicing out my eye to restore the PH balance and used drops to ease the pain.

Finally, she checked my eye in a darkened room with a special lamp and drops.

During the whole procedure she and her colleague were very kind and reassuring, even sensing that I was a bit wobbly with shock.

They even put up the sides of the trolley to ensure I didn’t roll off.

I was sent home with antibiotic cream and details of the specialist eye clinic in Reading should this prove necessary.

It was a very painful accident but the care and treatment I received was exemplary and I felt very lucky to be part of a society where this is what one can expect.

Thank you to the ladies who treated me, you have wonderful skills and we are very lucky to have you in our local hospital. — Yours faithfully,

Jenny Cooney


Wonderful NHS staff

Editor, — I would like to thank our wonderful NHS for the care I received after a serious fall, which happened one Sunday at 11pm.

Fortunately, my daughter was at home and phoned for an ambulance straight away.

She had to answer a number of questions regarding my health and injuries before they’d agree to attend. However, they warned her that they were extremely busy and there could be a three-hour delay.

Both my daughter and a good friend stayed by my side. They hid their anxieties and comforted me the best they could.

Through the early hours, they phoned 999 again, three times, because I had started vomiting what looked like blood.

The operators were reassuring but there was nothing more they could do until the new crews came on shift because they were so busy.

After about seven hours on the floor, at around 6am, the paramedics finally arrived and were superb.

I was admitted to the Emmer Green ward at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading for up to seven weeks with a bleed on the brain and a broken hip.

I cannot speak more highly of the treatment, kindness and dedication shown to me by all the staff.

Considering I witnessed for myself the daily pressure they were under, their commitment to their profession was outstanding.

It’s not until we need our NHS that we can truly appreciate how precious and valuable it is to us. — Yours faithfully,

J Barlow Smart


Funny side of fungi...

Sir, — For two weeks running there have been pages of pictures of fungi in the

This doesn’t give photos of other field plants mush room. With apologies to Lonnie Donegan. — Yours faithfully,

Jeff Cornacchia

Cromwell Road, Henley

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