Tuesday, 03 August 2021

Broken promises, delays, public meetings

December 2003:

December 2003:

Townlands Hospital comes under threat from closure after the South East and South West Oxfordshire Primary Care Trusts introduce the South Locality Plan, which proposed reducing South Oxfordshire’s community hospitals from six to three.

After a huge public response, the trust agreed to work with the Townlands Steering Group, which was set up by the town council.

June 2005:

Health authorities delay a decision to close six hospital beds at Townlands following a threat of legal action. The beds were among 37 in six hospitals across the region threatened with closure following an announcement by the South East and South West Oxfordshire Primary Care Trusts.

August 2005:

More than 4,000 people take part in a march around Henley to save Townlands. Speeches are made by Henley MP Boris Johnson and town councillors, while many protesters hold banners and signs.

October 2005:

An 11,500—strong petition to save Townlands Hospital is delivered to 10 Downing Street by the Townlands Action Group and Henley MP Boris Johnson.

A copy of the petition was also given to Nick Relph, chief executive of Thames Valley Strategic Health Authority.


The hospital is saved and discussions begin over a redevelopment. In 2010 the procurement plan for the new hospital had to be scrapped due to the risk of legal challenges. A new plan sets the completion date for 2014.

November 2012:

Concerns over the future of the hospital are ended as permission is granted for a redevelopment. South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee unanimously approve the plans for a new £8.7million “health campus” on the existing site, despite criticisms from residents over its size.

January 2013:

The redevelopment is thrown into doubt after insurance company Aviva stalls on a £7million loan. The company is worried the loan will not be guaranteed by the government once primary care trusts are abolished. Following talks, an Aviva spokeswoman said the company is “encouraged”.

July 2013:

Town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, tells residents that construction of the new hospital is “still on track.”

Health chiefs are finalising the design of the 18—bed hospital, which will incorporate the new Sue Ryder hospice, which is moving from Nettlebed, as well as a 64—bed care home to replace Chilterns End and 44 new “key worker” homes.

September 2013:

Construction of the hospital is put back by at least one month. It is the seventh delay to the project, which means the start date has slipped back by more than three years from the original one. Construction, once started, will take about two years to complete.

November 2013:

The redevelopment is delayed again after NHS Property Services says it is still negotiating with contractors over costs.

February 2014:

The final contracts for the hospital are still not agreed, despite NHS Property Services saying they would be prepared by February 1, a process known as commercial closure.

March 2014:

The new hospital finally gets the go—ahead as the plans are given conditional approval by NHS Property Services.

May 2014:

The contract to construct the new hospital is awarded to Vinci Construction after the company agrees a £16 million deal with developer Amber Solutions for Care.

June 2014:

Building work begins with a ground—breaking ceremony at the site attended by members of Henley town and Oxfordshire county councils, developer Amber Solutions for Care, contractors Vinci and NHS Property Services, which owns the site. Workmen begin to level the site ahead of construction of the new hospital.

December 2014:

The Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed pulls out of a move to the hospital, leaving the second floor empty. The charity says it was “unable to reach an agreement” with health chiefs over the proposed switch.

January 2015:

Doctors from Henley’s two surgeries lose the contract to care for patients at Townlands. It means GPs from the Bell and Hart practices will no longer carry out services and visits to Peppard ward when the current contract ends on March 31, bringing an end an arrangement which began in the mid—Eighties. Talks are later held to restore the contract after a public backlash.

March 2015:

An announcement by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group on the services to be provided at the new hospital is delayed after the group says the options are not ready to be presented to the public.

April 2015:

The commissioning group says reducing the number of beds at the hospital in Henley will mean more services can be provided. It reveals it is considering cutting the number of beds from the originally promised 18 to just five, leading to angry complaints from residents. The group agrees to carry out a four—week consultation with residents after an intervention from Henley MP John Howell.

May 2015:

The commissioning group defends plans for five beds at the hospital at a public meeting. The group says the proposals are not about saving money but are designed to give patients the “best possible health outcomes within the funds available”.

It is revealed that beds will not be available for a least six months after the new hospital is built, with patients instead being cared for at Wallingford Community Hospital after the Peppard ward at the current hospital closes on November 1.

The Henley Standard launches its “Save Our Beds” campaign, calling for the 18 beds originally promised at Townlands to be restored to the plans.

June 2015:

More than 150 people attend a public meeting with the commissioning group at Henley town hall as part of its consultation on the proposals but dozens of residents were turned away after the hall reached capacity.

The group outlined the plans for a three—day rapid access care unit but residents demanded the 18 beds be installed at the hospital.

A Henley Standard petition with more than 2,500 signatures calling for the beds to be restored is handed to the commissioning group at the end of the public consultation. In the days that follow, signatures increase to more than 3,000.

Residents and the Mayor, Lorraine Hillier, call for a second march in opposition to the proposal to cut the number of beds at the new hospital.

July 2015:

The Townlands Steering Group attends a meeting of the Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee to challenge the consultation, which it says was “flawed.” The committee finds it was “adequate.”

About 2,000 people march through the town demanding the 18 beds are returned to the plans for the hospital. Town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, vows to “leave no stone unturned” in the fight save the beds at the hospital.

Dr Philip Unwin reveals the Bell and Hart surgeries are keen to move to Townlands in place of Sue Ryder.

Final board meeting to decide new care model for Townlands.

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