Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Care home beds deal demanded

CAMPAIGNERS are demanding that 14 beds are installed in a specially made “Peppard Wing” at a

CAMPAIGNERS are demanding that 14 beds are installed in a specially made “Peppard Wing” at a care home next to the new Townlands Hospital.

The Townlands Steering Group has called for the beds to be put in the Orders of St John home and secured on a long-term contract as free for patients. It also wants:

• Nurses qualified up to registered level six and 24-hour care assistants to look after patients in these beds.

• A special nursing station and shared living space.

• A consultant gerontologist at the hospital’s new rapid access care unit.

• A continued scrutiny and monitoring role for the steering group itself.

The group said that if these demands were met before this week’s meeting of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s board, it would “not oppose” the existing proposal not to have any beds in the new hospital.

The group had previously called for 18 beds to be installed in the hospital, as promised in the original plans to expand the existing Peppard ward.

Instead, the commissioning group wants to “buy” five to eight beds at the 64-bed care home, which is to be built next to the hospital, as well as having the rapid access care unit.

Last month, the commissioning group said it was prepared to have up to eight beds at the care home permanently and increase this to 14 “on demand”.

More than 20 people attended a meeting of the steering group on Monday, which heard that members had been in lengthy discussions with the commissioning group, overseen by Henley MP John Howell, ahead of yesterday’s (Thursday) board meeting.

Town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the steering group, said: “At our final meeting last week we still thought it was right to put beds in the hospital but the commissioning group made it clear that they were not prepared to discuss that.

“What the community has to choose between is a course of action to pursue the full 18 beds in the hospital or to continue to discuss with the commissioning group a way to make their proposals more acceptable.

“John Howell has been party to discussions and he encourages us to stay in negotiations.

“The beds are not where we want them to be and I’m disappointed but we have to be realistic and this resolution will allow us to work with the commissioning group.

“The commissioning group is keen to have the support of the community and that gives us a certain degree of influence. We have to be realistic about what they are proposing while also pushing hard for what we want.”

Cllr Reissmann added that a legal challenge against the commissioning group’s plans would be “very risky”.

He said the Henley GPs and the chief executive of the Royal Berkshire Hospital, both of whom had expressed concerns about having no beds in the hospital, had been “reassured” following the discussions. Cllr Reissmann said: “It’s completely right for us to be sceptical and we need to ask questions and challenge the commissioning group.

“The only way to do that is to engage. There is always a degree of risk when you change a service. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work with them.

“We are saying we want to see 14 beds go in from the start to match the 14 beds currently used. If demand then reduces because there is more care at home we could see those reduced.

“We also want to see nursing in one space just for those beds.

“We think it’s absolutely critical to have beds, starting at 14, in a single location so nursing staff can attend to them all without trailing round a 64-bed care home.

“The commissioning group has told us that is likely to be the case and I think that’s one of the things we should insist upon.

“We want the length of contract long enough so they can’t just remove the service in a year’s time. We want to see the rapid access care unit led by a consultant. These are the concerns we want addressed as a minimum.

“The GPs have been talking to the commissioning group and while they have misgivings they believe the best course of action is to continue discussing the proposals and make them as good as possible.

“The GPs have been reassured and the Royal Berks are also less unhappy than they were.

“Any legal challenge would be for us to show that the commissioning group hasn’t consulted properly, which is a very risky and uncertain route to take.

“First of all, we could lose the challenge, secondly they could just come back and do the consultation right a second time and thirdly we risk cutting ourselves off from these discussions totally.”

Mayor Lorraine Hillier backed the steering group’s demands, saying that creating a Peppard Wing would stop the beds from being “lost” in the care home.

She said: “We are really unhappy about the beds not going in the hospital but we will just have to try to make the best of the situation.

“They are not softening their stance and we need to carry on with negotiations.”

Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, a member of the steering group, said: “We have been told that beds in the hospital are not possible so we are trying to create 14 beds in the care home which are as close as possible to hospital beds.”

But some members of the steering group and the public said they were angry that the commissioning group was “stringing us along” and had never intended to allow any beds at the hospital.

Dick Fletcher, of Mill End, Hambleden, said: “The elephant in the room is trust and I think the message we should take back to them from the community is there’s an enormous groundswell of mistrust.

“We have been lied to and they need to prove they can be trusted and that what they say will actually happen.”

David Smewing, a former mayor and a member of the steering group, said: “We have a completely empty floor in the hospital so my conclusion is they are not seriously negotiating and are trying to force it through.

“I think they are stringing us along.”

Former Mayor Jeni Wood, from Peppard, said: “The commissioning group has stolen from us something we already had.

“I wonder how many people it would take to stand in front of the hospital and not let them take it from us?

“Those beds and rooms in the care home are needed for patients with conditions such as dementia, so we are stealing from Peter to feed Paul.

“We already have something, so why don’t we protect that instead of ending up with a hospital building used just for doctors’ surgeries and offices?

“It sounds like we are having all these meetings and the commissioning group is winning every time. How dare they treat us like this?”

Peter Ashby, a retired Henley GP and member of the steering group, said he shared concerns about the commissioning group’s motives but wanted to continue negotiating rather than pursuing legal action.

He said: “It’s quite clear they have been stringing us along and made up their minds the beds would close long before meeting us.

“I’m gravely worried about the situation we are getting into but we can’t stop them closing the beds, that’s what they have wanted to do since day one.

“If we break off negotiations we have no say at all and if we stay there’s a genuine chance we will get more. I do feel this resolution is our only option.”

A commissioning group spokeswoman said: “Over the course of the last six weeks, members of the Townlands Steering Group, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Oxfordshire County Council and Oxford Health Foundation Trust, with the support of John Howell MP, have worked collaboratively to address the concerns raised by the community about the new model of care proposed for the Townlands health campus.

“This has resulted in further concessions made by the commissioning group, including confirmation that up to 14 beds would be commissioned from the Orders of St John care home to support demand as necessary and as the new model of care embeds.”

 A Royal Berkshire Hospital NHS trust spokeswman said: “We have always been supportive of an increased range of outpatient services at the new Townlands Hospital as originally proposed in the consultation.

“We look forward to hearing the outcome of Thursday’s meeting and have nothing to add at this point.”

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