Tuesday, 03 August 2021

Beds D-Day: the 19 who will decide Townlands future

THESE are the 19 people who will decide the future of the new Townlands Hospital.

THESE are the 19 people who will decide the future of the new Townlands Hospital.

The board of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning group will meet in Banbury on Thursday to discuss the model of care which will be used at the redeveloped hospital.

The town was originally promised 18 beds to replace the 14 beds currently at Townlands in the Peppard Ward, which is due to be demolished in November.

It is proposed that the new model of care will be a Rapid Access Care Unit, which will provide next—day care but will only be open three days each week and there will be five “step up” and “step down” beds provided by the neighbouring Orders of St John care home on the hospital site.

At the meeting, the board will be presented with feedback from a consultation carried out by the commissioning group on the current model, which finished on June 15.

This will include the Henley Standard’s “Save Our Beds” petition, which was signed by more than 3,000 people and was handed to the commissioning group in June.

Two weeks ago, about 2,000 people also took part in a march around the town centre in protest against the proposed cut in beds and called for the 18 beds to be installed at the hospital, which had been originally promised.

Last week, David Smith, chief executive of the commissioning group, appeared to suggest the five—bed model will go ahead despite the protest after saying he can’t “turn back the tide of change”. In a statement, Mr Smith said: “We have to look at the future, not to the past, and believe these changes will further improve the quality of healthcare we can offer to local people. Our aim throughout the consultation was to run a process which allowed people to give us their views and reasons for and against the proposed model of care.

“Some local residents may think that we can turn back the tide of change but we can’t. There is an undeniable truth that healthcare and people’s health needs have moved on since the original hospital was built and even since the consultation on proposals for the new hospital three years ago.”

Town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, is urging residents to attend Thursday’s meeting, which starts at Banbury town hall at 9am.

The steering group has already formally opposed the consultation, which it said was “flawed”, at a meeting of the Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee last month although the committee decided to note the consultation process as “adequate”.

Cllr Reissmann is now promising further action against the commissioning group, starting with Thursday’s meeting. He said: “We would like as many members of the community as possible to attend the meeting.

“You can contact the steering group if you want to attend, but anyone can turn up, it is a public meeting. We want to hold a banner outside and make our presence felt. It’s all part of our campaign designed to build pressure.”

The steering group has made Freedom of Information requests to the commissioning group over the data used to work out the five—bed model.

A fund—raising page has also been set up to help finance the campaign, with Cllr Reissmann saying legal action against the commissioning group could be needed.

He said: “I think they are going to approve the five—bed plan which means we will be down to legal action to get them to change their minds.

“We are working with other health academics and writers to support the campaign, and we are in contact with solicitors specialising in public law who will take us through the steps required to obtain a judicial review of any decision taken. We have promised the community that we will do everything in our power to keep the beds.

“We are sure the decision to close the bedded service is not only not right but is also unlawful. The consultation was not properly carried out and we will be seeking to persuade a judge of this and obtain an injunction against the closure.

“The money will be a problem, we will need several tens of thousands of pounds so we want people to donate.”

To donate visit www.friendsoftownlands.co.uk or donate directly to the League of Townlands Hospital account using the account number 13062247 and sort code 60 10 35.

Cllr Reissmann submitted a Freedom of Information request to the commissioning group on Thursday, July 16. In it, he asked for the bed usage data, information and conclusions presented at the group’s workshops in September last year and February and April this year.

He also asked for the data used to form documents on the number of beds which were given to the steering group last month, as well as the details of delays in patients being transferred to beds at Townlands and other hospitals including the Royal Berkshire in Reading and John Radcliffe in Oxford in the last year.

Cllr Reissmann’s other requests were for the responses of GPs and other care providers to the consultation.

Mayor Lorraine Hillier and fellow town councillors Stefan Gawrysiak and David Nimmo Smith will be attending Thursday’s meeting, where they hope to speak during the public questions session.

Cllr Gawrysiak said: “We want a good public presence for the meeting. There’s an opportunity for the public to ask questions and we should have a good number of Henley residents as well as people from the parishes around the town. I will be speaking on three themes.

“The first is that the overwhelming opinion from all the meetings was that we were against the plans currently proposed by the commissioning group and The second is that during the consultation process they were constantly pulling rabbits out of the hat.

“We started with an emergency multidisciplinary unit, then it became a rapid access care unit and, at the last minute, we discovered it was only open three days a week. It was quite a shock that things were happening during the consultation process and I will raise that I think the consultation was flawed.

“Finally, the group has not convinced us that the support for care in the home is there. It’s not there at the moment and I don’t think it will be in the future. John Jackson said there will be no more money so if we are putting more people into the community the resources aren’t there for them.”

Meanwhile, the man overseeing the build of the new Townlands Hospital says it’s set to be completed in the first week of November.

There has been much speculation over what services will be provided at the site. But Chris Goss, of Vinci Construction UK, has had no instructions to change anything from the original contract.

He told the Henley Standard: “We have been told to carry on with the hospital as originally designed and contracted for.”

Mr Goss said there would be a “decanting” of the old hospital into the new one when the build was finished. When this was completed and while the new hospital was up and running, the old site would be demolished, realistically, he said, in the New Year.

He added: “We’re confident enough — it’s gone relatively smoothly. There’s been nothing untoward. It’s a very tight site, it’s obviously in a very sensitive area of the town and we have got a lot of neighbours who are very close to us and we’re trying not to disrupt their lives too much.”

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