Sunday, 01 August 2021

Residents must be consulted over Townlands beds

RESIDENTS must be consulted over plans to reduce the number of beds at the new Townlands Hospital in

RESIDENTS must be consulted over plans to reduce the number of beds at the new Townlands Hospital in Henley, says John Howell.

The Henley MP made the call after the Henley Standard exclusively revealed that the number could be cut from 18 to around five.

The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group says the move would help improve services at the new £16 million “health campus” and enable more patients to receive care at home.

It believes 18 beds would be too many and that they would rarely be full or used by people from the Henley area.

Instead, it wants to establish an emergency multi-disciplinary unit, an outreach from the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading, offering a range of day services.

Mr Howell said: “As far as the new medical tests and services that are proposed to be provided at Townlands are concerned, I’m all in favour and it’s something GPs have been asking for for some time.

“However, when it comes to the question of beds, the commissioning group has to consult with the people of Henley. It is only right that they come and see the people and explain to them what the situation is and what they are proposing.

“We have to get this right rather than simply brushing over it in the hope of getting the deal through on time.”

Mr Howell was supported by Henley Mayor Martin Akehurst who said: “We need a consultation between the town and the commissioning group as to what is needed there.

“I want to see the beds in the hospital. I want to see the doctors coming from local surgeries who will know the patients, know the medical history, know the family, and I want to see Sue Ryder back in that top floor.”

In December Sue Ryder announced it would not be moving from its hospice in Nettlebed to the new hospital and in January the Henley Standard revealed that doctors from the Bell and Hart surgeries had lost the contract to care for patients at Townlands. David Nimmo Smith, a member of the Townlands Steering Group, said: “I think there should be a public consultation because I think this is a material change. We had been told it was going to be like-for-like replacements.”

He said the commissioning group told the steering group about the change of plan about a month ago.

“At that time we said, ‘hang on a minute, this is something new’,” he said. “It came out of the blue as we had been told it was going to be like-for-like replacements.

“We would like to represent the town but we’re not being advised by the commissioning group and other bodies in a timely manner.

“It makes me wonder does the group think it needs to talk to the Townlands Steering Group or is it just coming along with what it thinks is best practice and driving it through?”

Ian Reissmann, chairman of the steering group, said: “The consultation would be on any change from what was originally agreed in the business case and the planning permission that was approved a couple of years ago. If there’s a significant change then I think the public should be consulted. What we need to do is make sure that need is being met. I’m still optimistic about us getting the right deal for our needs.”

David Smith, chief executive of the commissioning group, said the reduction in the number of beds was not a “significant change” but that the health overview and scrutiny committee at Oxfordshire County Council would decide the issue and whether public consultation was required.

Mr Smith added: “I believe we do not have to go to public consultation unless the commitee says this is a significant change and therefore it would advise us to go to public consultation. If we choose to ignore the committee we are open to judicial review, which is expensive. Consultation would last at least three months and that would cause a delay to building the  hospital.”

A spokesman for the commissioning group said it was “working closely with providers to consider options for the future of services in Henley”. He added: “We welcome the opportunity to continue an open dialogue with the steering group as the project develops.”

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