Monday, 26 July 2021

Don’t axe beds says NHS chief

THE head of the Royal Berkshire Hospital says beds should be retained at the new Townlands

THE head of the Royal Berkshire Hospital says beds should be retained at the new Townlands Hospital.

Jean O’Callaghan says that scrapping Peppard ward will cause delays in discharges from acute hospital beds “to the detriment of patient care”.

She is the most senior health chief to come out in support of the Henley Standard’s Save Our Beds campaign, which was sparked by plans to replace the 14 beds at the current hospital with five to eight “bought” from the neighbouring care home.

The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group also proposes to introduce a next-day rapid access care unit to encourage more home-based care.

Mrs O’Callaghan is chief executive of the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, which will be providing services at the new £16million “health campus”.

She wrote to the commissioning group’s chief executive David Smith about her “significant concerns” in June.

The letter has come to light as a result of a Freedom of Information request submitted by the Townlands Steering Group.

It urges the commissioning group to “re-provide Peppard ward in the new build” because the rapid access care unit has not yet been proven as an effective replacement for the beds.

Mrs O’Callaghan wrote: “The trust is fully supportive of plans to deliver an increased range of outpatient services at the new hospital.

“While we are always enthusiastic to work with commissioners to develop and deliver the outpatient elements of the model, we do have significant concerns relating to the proposal to remove the current inpatient beds.

“While we recognise the need for a step up/step down facility, we believe this should be provided to complement the existing beds rather than as a replacement. Regardless of ambulatory care innovations, there will remain a cohort of elderly patients who will require admission to an acute hospital and will then require inpatient rehabilitation.

“Removing rehabilitation beds from Townlands is likely to lead to a significant increase in delayed discharges from acute hospital beds, to the detriment of patient care.”

Mrs O’Callaghan pointed out that similar ambulatory care models in Abingdon and Witney had retained community beds.

She said: “Our concern is that the removal of the inpatient beds represents a significant change in practice which is not backed up, as yet, by a firm agreed ambulatory model, a pilot scheme or conclusive evidence to suggest that this is the most effective and safe way of delivering care.”

Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, said: “The views of the Royal Berks are very close to those of the steering group and the Henley community — we have a common goal.

“Let’s see what we can do about solving the problem because the community and the commissioning group are still in very different places.

“The Royal Berks came to the same conclusion as us but did it independently.

“The people of Henley want to be treated in Henley and the Royal Berks would prefer to free up beds in their hospital.”

This week, the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust said it was still concerned about the provision of beds despite several public meetings being held since Mrs O’Callaghan’s letter.

A statement said: “There continues to be dialogue between ourselves and the commissioning group. In particular, the group has recognised that a number of issues have been raised and has made a commitment to carry out further review and engagement.

“We expect this to include clarifying the transitional arrangements for bed closures, which we remain concerned about, and we are also working with commissioning group colleagues to accurately assess the impact of any changes to the bed model.

“While the trust’s concerns regarding the impact of the proposed changes remain broadly as stated in the letter, we are fully committed to ongoing dialogue with the commissioning group to work towards addressing these and would hope to see mitigation of the risks that we have highlighted.”

Meanwhile, dozens of residents attended an exhibition of new plans for the complex hosted by developers Amber Solutions for Care on Tuesday.

Changes include moving parking underground to increase the green space on the site and combining the two assisted care accommodation blocks into one building.

Work on the 64-bed care home to be run by the Orders of St John is expected to start early next year.

Project director Mike Leto said: “We will be going back into planning with these changes which we believe will enhance the scheme.

“We wanted to make sure we’ve got the best scheme. We want it to be a landmark facility.”

Architect Nick Baker said they wanted the complex to have a campus feel.

“There are no drastic changes and the feedback so far has been good,” he added.

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