Friday, 17 September 2021

Doctors ‘sad’ to lose Townlands contract

DOCTORS from Henley’s two surgeries have lost the contract to care for patients at Townlands Hospital.

DOCTORS from Henley’s two surgeries have lost the contract to care for patients at Townlands Hospital.

The Bell and Hart practices will no longer carry out GP services and visits to Peppard Ward.

When the current contract ends on March 31 it will bring to an end an arrangement which began in the mid-Eighties.

The Henley Standard understands that the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust has awarded the new contract to the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust.

But both the foundation trust and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for selecting and funding services at Townlands, would not comment.

Dr Philip Unwin, of the Hart Surgery, said he was disappointed as he considered working at Townlands to be part of the doctors’ role.

“It’s the end of an era,” he said. “The two surgeries have been looking after the hospital for around 30 years, providing what I believe was an exceptional service. All the doctors here regard it as part of our role.

“This is a hell of a wrench and I am really sad about it.”

He said the new provider would find it difficult to match the level of service that the patients were used to.

“Our close proximity meant that we were able to pop across at a moment’s notice and I believe we were uniquely placed to deliver such a service,” he said.

Dr Unwin said the surgeries worked together to provide cover at Townlands and the doctors visited every patient on the ward at least once a day.

They carried out patient reviews, checked drug charts, discharged medication and organised blood and urine tests as well as writing up notes and doing other administrative tasks. He said the two surgeries made an offer to secure the contract, which had revised service provision.

Dr Unwin said: “I don’t think it was a case of money. We really wanted it so we put a case forward which we thought was very reasonable and workable - we weren’t being greedy.

“They wanted us to do double the number of ward rounds and introduce patients who might need intravenous drugs, blood or fluids. All of this was fine and we have the manpower to do that.

“They told us what they wanted and we told them how we could do it and we put in a price based on ordinary doctor time. It was just a pro rata increase to allow for the fact we thought it would be double the amount of time.

“We wanted to continue what we were doing and just cover our costs. We were the cheapest, I am certain.

“I don’t think we fell down on anything. We have a very good relationship with a lot of patients and, of course. we know the staff.”

Dr Chris Langley, of the Bell Surgery, said: “We are very disappointed not to have been awarded the contract and feel saddened to have lost this close link with Henley’s community hospital.

“We are frustrated after so many years of working to get the Townlands redevelopment started but will continue to support the community hospital in ways that we can through our locality commissioning.”

Ian Reissmann, a town councillor, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, said: “I can understand why the GPs are disappointed. They have provided that service very successfully for a long time and it is something we value.

“We are very lucky in Henley to have the GPs so close to the hospital to provide this service.

“The steering group’s concern is to make sure that the level of service people receive at Townlands is at least as good as it was under the old system.”

Henley Mayor Martin Akehurst said it was useful having GPs so close to the hospital and they were likely to know the background and medical history of many of the patients.

“I am a little bit concerned that this could be going out of the area,” he said. “I would prefer a local team.”

Town and county councillor David Nimmo Smith said: “I am extremely disappointed. I think this is short-sighted.

“I don’t know the full details but on the face of it they are not reflecting the fact that there are two doctors’ practices immediately adjacent and they are able to get on site efficiently rather than having to come from somewhere else.”

Henley MP John Howell said: “I share the local GPs’ disappointment with the result of the tendering.

“I certainly shall be making enquiries into what has happened and get to the bottom of it. I am keen to ensure that the current service is maintained.”

The move comes during the construction of a new 12-bed Townlands, which is being redeveloped into a £16 million “health campus”. The project was approved in March after a 10-year fight by campaigners.

The central part of the new development will include inpatient, outpatient, ambulatory care, X-ray, podiatry, physiotherapy and dentistry services.

There will also be a new 64-bed care home to replace Chilterns End in Greys Road.

Last month, the Henley Standard exclusively revealed that the Sue Ryder hospice at Nettlebed would not be moving into the new hospital as expected after failing to reach an agreement with health chiefs.

A statement from the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said: “As we are in the midst of a procurement process, we are unable to comment.”

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