Saturday, 31 July 2021

Finally, date set for care unit opening

THE rapid access care unit at the new Townlands Hospital in Henley is set to finally

THE rapid access care unit at the new Townlands Hospital in Henley is set to finally open in January.

The unit at the £10 million hospital is designed to replace 14 “lost” beds and was originally due to open in March.

The opening has been delayed because of the need to convert the first floor at the hospital which was built according to the original plans with an 18-bed ward.

At a meeting of the Townlands stakeholders reference group on Tuesday, representatives from NHS Property Services, which owns the building, said the cost of refitting the floor was due to be agreed with the contractor and work would begin this month.

The new unit will offer services such as antibiotic treatment and transfusions and will operate alongside a minor injuries unit, podiatry, outpatient services, physiotherapy and out-of-hours GP services at the hospital as well as the eight beds at the neighbouring Orders of St John care home, which is due to open in November.

Conor Porter, service improvement manager at NHS Property Services, said the original estimates were “bitterly disappointing” and a second quote last month was also higher than expected.

He continued: “We are contractually bound to go with our contractor so we have discussed it and their latest price will be back this week. It’s going to be lower.

“The works will be started before the end of the month and we are committed to having it delivered by mid-December. We do understand that this is delayed and we are as disappointed as anyone.”

Once the building work is completed, Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which provides services at the hospital, says staff and equipment for the unit will be ready to go in and the unit should open in the new year.

Christine Hewitt, head of urgent care at the trust, said: “We have the equipment, which is being tested. As soon as it’s kitted out, we are ready to go. We would be looking at as soon as possible after Christmas.”

Gareth Kenworthy, director of finance at the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is in charge of services at the hospital, said the group was awarded £250,000 by NHS England to pay for the unit and the costs of the refit would fall within that budget.

Last month health chiefs were branded “incompetent” after it was revealed that the amended tender to convert the floor only went out in August — six months after the rest of the hospital opened.

The latest delay came after previously setbacks caused by the failure to recruit a clinical lead for the unit.

Mrs Hewitt told the meeting that a lead nurse had been appointed as a clinical lead and other staff at the unit were currently undertaking team-building exercises.

She said: “The only people missing are two nurses, for which we are interviewing this week.”

Alison Gowdy, directorate manager of integrated medicine at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, said that a part-time consultant had been appointed and would work alongside an associate specialist, who would be recruited before the end of the year.

The consultant will do two sessions per week but Mrs Gowdy said the trust hoped to appoint a full-time replacement by February, by which time those who are close to qualifying as consultants will be eligible to apply.

She said: “We advertised several months ago and didn’t have any interest as there’s a national shortage.

“We went back to Oxford Health and discussed appropriate models and agreed we can advertise for an associate specialist.

“We have got someone who previously worked at the Royal Berks who is interested in working on a sessional basis for us.”

Peter McCrane, clinical director for old people’s services, said t there were problems across the country with recruiting staff in similar roles.

He said: “What we are looking at here is a very niche, particular set of skills and nationally only 30 per cent of those posts are filled. For success we have got to retain staff and make it attractive for new people.”

The meeting also heard that “interested parties” had visited the empty top floor at the hospital after Sue Ryder pulled out of a deal to move its hospice in Nettlebed to the site.

The care home will replace Chilterns End care home in Greys Road.

Sara Livadeas, strategy director for the Orders of St John, said the building would be handed over by social housing provider bpha, which owns the property, in “about two weeks”.

There would then be a further two- week period when staff training would be completed and the building was inspected by the Care Quality Commission.

She said: “We will support people to move in November but we don’t want to give a definitive date.”

Assistant operations director Patsy Just said that six nurses had been recruited for the home and one more would be appointed before it opened. Staff from the existing home would be transferred to the new building. An official opening ceremony will be held on November 15 by a member of the royal family.

However, the wing in which the eight care unit beds will be situated is not going to be named the Peppard Wing, which campaigners had called for to honour Peppard Ward at the old hospital.

The Orders of St John say the wing will be called “Bluebell”.

Ms Livadeas said: “It’s being built and paid for by bpha as part of the care home. ‘Peppard Wing’ means nothing to the care home and we don’t want to confuse people in there. It’s not a name our residents have chosen.”

Mayor Julian Brookes urged the trust to reconsider. He said: “It’s an extremely sensitive issue in Henley and you will find the public won’t agree with you. We will be suggesting a name change.”

Cllr Gawrysiak added: “The wing is part of the care home but it’s the wing that’s going to take patients from the care unit, therefore we should have an input into it. This particular wing is not for residents, it’s for the people of Henley.”

Meanwhile, more than 1,200 patients were treated at Townlands last month.

Mrs Gowdy said 60 per cent more people had been treated at the hospital since it opened and the number of clinics had been increased.

She said: “We still have more capacity. Numbers dropped slightly over the summer but in September it was just shy of 1,200 patients, which is really positive.

“We have done that through a wide variety of clinics. We increased the number of existing clinics and started some new one,s such as spinal, paediatric and bariatrics. We are looking to get to 1,600 patients a month. In six months I think we have done a pretty good job.”

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