Monday, 25 May 2020

Campaigners demand answers over hospice closure

Campaigners demand answers over hospice closure

CAMPAIGNERS are pressing Sue Ryder to explain in more detail why it won’t create new beds elsewhere when it shuts its Nettlebed hospice.

The charity is closing the facility at Joyce Grove at the end of this month, saying it is too expensive to maintain and it wouldn’t be viable to set up a replacement facility because most people would rather spend their final days at home.

But the Townlands Steering Group, which consists of doctors, councillors and other community representatives from the Henley area, says Sue Ryder hasn’t provided enough information to justify this claim nor met families directly to address their concerns.

Many families say the hospice provided valuable respite care for relatives and they couldn’t have coped without it.

Sue Ryder says its bed occupancy rate dropped from 70 per cent about two years ago, when it had 12 beds, to below 50 per cent a year later, forcing it to cut six beds. Two others were axed a few months later. From next month onwards, patients will only be able to use the charity’s palliative care hub, a
24-hour telephone service offering advice and home visits.

The steering group has asked the charity to provide a formal assessment of the need for hospice beds in South Oxfordshire, which has a population of about 140,000, and to prove that the reduction in beds didn’t cause the apparent drop in demand.

It has asked how many patients recently requested a bed at Joyce Grove but weren’t given one due to a shortage of spaces, where they ended up instead and how many were left “blocking” beds at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading because there was nowhere else for them to go.

Sue Ryder says patients who still want a bed can go to either the Sobell House hospice at Oxford or its own Duchess of Kent hospice in Reading. But the group wants to know how many beds have been free at the latter in recent months and how many extra beds are likely to be requested by people who otherwise would have gone to Nettlebed.

They also want to see the total number of recent requests for beds received by the hospice from every referral body.

Henley town councillor Ian Reissmann, chairman of the steering group, said: “The group and others have received many expressions of concern across the community about the lack of transparency regarding the closure of this important and respected service.

“We have approached Sue Ryder and requested that they engage with the community to answer the questions raised here.

“We accept that a clear plan with supporting evidence may be emerging behind the scenes and when Sue Ryder and other stakeholders, like the Oxfordshire NHS clinical commissioning group, are able to share this information, the community will feel much more positive about the proposed changes.

“Unfortunately, Sue Ryder has declined to meet with us or other community representatives to provide reassurances on the continuity of services to a very vulnerable sector of the community. We have been offered a meeting in April but by then the existing service will have closed.

“The community and this group are strong supporters of the services provided by Sue Ryder and recognise the challenges faced in maintaining the current level of service and the difficulty in taking these decisions.

“In order for Sue Ryder to retain this level of support, we call on the charity to respond to the challenges and concerns of the community with the openness expected of this much-admired charity and care provider and to sit down with community representatives to listen to our concerns and explain their plans in a much clearer form.”

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