Friday, 06 August 2021

Save the beds at Townlands Hospital

A CAMPAIGN to save the beds at Townlands Hospital is launched by the Henley Standard this week

A CAMPAIGN to save the beds at Townlands Hospital is launched by the Henley Standard this week.

Save Our Beds demands that health chiefs stick by their original pledge to have 18 beds in the new £16million "health campus" currently being built.

Instead, the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is planning to scrap the 14-bed Peppard ward and pay for the use of just five beds at the care home which is also to be built at the site.

This means that there will be NO beds at all at Townlands for at least six months from November when the existing hospital is prepared for demolition. After that, the new arrangements will come into effect ? unless we make the commissioning group change its mind.

There are less than three weeks to go until the end of the public consultation on its plans to encourage more care of patients at home.

Save Our Beds is supported by town councillors and members of the Townlands Steering Group, which will meet at Henley town hall on Monday.

You can it give your backing by writing letters to the Henley Standard and signing copies of the petition that we will be printing and distributing from next week. You can also write directly to the commissioning group using the email address at the end of this article.

Stefan Gawrysiak, a town councillor and member of the steering group, said members of the group agreed that the original plans should be delivered. He said: "We want the 18 beds in Townlands Hospital ? no ifs, no buts."

Councillor Gawrysiak said the commissioning group had failed to convince about 100 people who attended a consultation meeting at Phyllis Court Club on Thursday last week of the benefit of its proposals.

He said: "We have been willing to listen to the commissioning group and we have been urging them to make the case for the model they have been proposing. They have singularly failed to do that.

"With the model that is being proposed there will be no beds in Henley for six months and there will be very few after that.

"They have not convinced us that support services, in terms of district nurses, are there. It is also clear that the local GPs are not convinced by the proposals.

"When the commissioning group has put all the other things in place then there may well be a case for slowly phasing out the number of beds over a two- to five-year period."

Councillor David Nimmo Smith, who this week took over as chairman of the steering group from Councillor Ian Reismann, said: "The community wants 18 beds and we will support what the community wants. That was the promise made way back at the start by the NHS and that is what the community expects."

Barry Wood, another member of the steering group, said that while the new hospital might not need all the 18 beds originally proposed, five would not be enough.

"We are minded that we need beds at Townlands," he said. "I've proposed that they install 18 beds and bring in a social care structure gradually over two to five years, which means you can take out a few beds.

"Either that or if they are adamant that we lose beds, then what we need is six emergency multi-disciplinary unit beds and about six to eight rehabilitation beds.

"We don't necessarily need 18 beds, but I've heard too much anecdotal evidence now from other hospitals to say we can do away with lots of beds or that there is enough social care in the community because there isn't."

Mayor Lorraine Hillier said: "It's terribly important we have 18 beds as promised.

"We are told that even though the hospital is in Henley, it's not 'the Henley hospital' but if it wasn't for the people of Henley fighting to keep a hospital in the town we wouldn't be having one built."

The consultation meeting heard that patients would be cared for at Wallingford Community Hospital after the closure of Peppard ward on November 1 while the 64-bed care home, run by the Orders of St John Trust Care, is built.

David Smith, chief executive of the commissioning group, said: "The existing Peppard ward as of that date gets closed because that is the contract. That was agreed not by me, not by my colleagues, it pre-dates us."

John Jackson, Oxfordshire County Council's director for adult social services, admitted when pressed that a contract for the beds at the care home had not been signed.

He said he would have been "lambasted" if this had been done before the consultation.

Mr Smith said: "We will be putting a contract in place with the Orders of St John."

The meeting was ill-tempered and one woman shouted: "You're not asking us what we want, you're telling us!"

Mr Smith said there would be a commitment from the county council to put resources into social care but this was met by cynicism from the audience who raised concerns about funding.

He was also pressed on the commissioning group's plans for the second floor of the new hospital after Sue Ryder's decision to pull out. Mr Smith said there was a range of options.

The panel of experts from the commissioning group were regularly interrupted by angry residents demanding answers during the question and answer session.

Henley resident Charles Langler said: "I think the whole proposal is ridiculous."

Town councillor David Eggleton said: "To me what you're saying sounds like a 'drive thru'."

He suggested having 15 beds in the new hospital, adding: "Put them in now and adjust it accordingly if you don't think they are needed."

Dr Andrew Burnett, a senior partner at the Sonning Common Health Centre and the south-east locality director for the commissioning group, said: "It's better for people, where possible, to be looked after in their own homes. We know that often older people when they come into hospital don't do very well."

By having specialised services there would be more opportunities to see people the same day and send them home with a package of care.

"We want to provide care that's local to the people of South Oxfordshire," said Dr Burnett.

"To get the biggest bang for our buck we need to make sure we can provide the best services for the greatest number of people."

Pete McGrane, clinical director for older people's services at Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said the quality of care at Townlands was exemplary.

But he added: "There's now a growing research evidence base, both within the UK and internationally, that when we take complex, fairly elderly people and we bring them into a hospital setting very often they don't do well.

"I'm not finding my patients coming to me and asking 'can you please admit me to hospital?' Very often patients are saying 'can you please keep me out of hospital?'

"There are always going to be patients who need to be in hospital, who need to be in bedded care when it's not safe to keep them in their own homes."

With similar models in Abingdon and Witney the experience had been "overwhelmingly" positive, he said.

"We really must be positive and progressive if we're to deliver healthcare which is fit for the future."

Henley MP John Howell said any campaign to save the beds was "premature" until the consultation has been completed and the results published.

He said: "We must get the consultation finished and for them to come out with the assessment of what they've planned.

"If they are then still holding the view that the number of beds should be reduced then that may be the occasion to take this line."

A spokesman for the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group said: "We are consulting on a new model of care to be delivered at the new Townlands Hospital which better meets the needs of the current and future population of the Henley area rather than the old bed-based hospital model.

"We want to see more people supported and cared for in their own homes. We are proposing to use the space that would have otherwise be used for beds to deliver more clinics to provide quicker assessments for older people and those with chronic illnesses, which is called ambulatory care.

"This approach would ensure more health services can be provided in Henley to reduce the need for people to visit hospitals in Reading or Oxford.

"We want to obtain the views of all members of the public to our proposals fairly and effectively, and people can do this at public meetings, online and through the post. The consultation questionnaire is designed so people can make their views known on any aspect of our plans which will be considered and reported to Oxfordshire's health overview and scrutiny committee."

For more information and to take part in the consultation, call 01865 334838, visit or email

There will be a public meeting at the Peppard sports pavillion, off Stoke Row Road, on June 11 from 7pm.

• What do you think? Write to: Letters, Henley Standard, Caxton House, 1 Station Road, Henley, RG9 1AD or email

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