Wednesday, 04 August 2021

Campaigners pledge watching brief after beds defeat

CAMPAIGNERS say they will continue to work with health chiefs despite being “extremely unhappy” with a decision to install just eight beds at the new Townlands Hospital.

CAMPAIGNERS say they will continue to work with health chiefs despite being “extremely unhappy” with a decision to install just eight beds at the new Townlands Hospital.

The Townlands Steering Group met last Wednesday, two weeks after the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group agreed to put the beds in the Orders of St John care home, next to the hospital, with another six available “on demand”.

The hospital had originally been promised 18 beds in a ward at the new hospital, to replace the 14 currently in Peppard Ward, which is being demolished.

Members of the steering group said that while they were unhappy with the commissioning group’s decision, a legal challenge would be expensive and ineffective and their best option was to stay involved with the project.

Ian Reissmann, who chairs the group, said: “The sub-group met last week to consider what to do next and we think there’s a simple choice. The commissioning group made up its mind some time ago not to put beds in the hospital, we lost that argument. We can either accept that the decision has been made and work with the commissioning group, or the only alternative is to take a legal challenge and initiate a judicial review.

“We can spend a lot of money and end up where we are now or we can make the best of the situation and try to improve it as much as we can.”

Oxfordshire county councillor David Nimmo Smith added: “What do we do if we don’t want to work with them? We get nothing. We only get something if we work with them and I want to set up a community liaison group to do that.”

Cllr Reissmann said that the steering group would now look to be involved with negotiations between the commissioning group and Orders of St John over the beds and wants to monitor the new hospital when it opens.

He said previous discussions had been productive and by staying involved the steering group could exert “influence”.

Cllr Reissmann said: “There has been no contract signed yet for the beds. They exist but it’s whether they exist in the way we want them to. That’s where we might get left out if we are not in discussions. If I thought we had achieved nothing by talking to the commissioning group and would achieve nothing in the future then I wouldn’t suggest talking to it.”

Barry Wood, a former Henley mayor and member of the steering group, added: “What we have now got to do is enter into a partnership with the commissioning group. Our duty and responsibility is to make sure this works.”

Other members of the group spoke about their disappointment with the commissioning group, which they say has treated them with “utter contempt”.

Peter Ashby, a former GP at the Bell Surgery, said: “I’m a very unhappy soul at the moment. I would find it very hard to negotiate with these people, I’m thrilled we have got this hospital but I didn’t realise they were going to come and run it for us.”

Town councillor Will Hamilton added: “I’m critical of the way the commissioning group has behaved. While we can put pressure on I’m skeptical because to be honest they haven’t listened to us at all. They’ve done what they wanted to do all along.”

Fellow councillor Stefan Gawrysiak said: “We are all extremely unhappy with where we are at the moment but we have secured something that is in fact very good in that there will be services which mean people don’t have to travel into Reading.

“We don’t trust them and are incredibly cynical, when they say the social care package won’t cost any more money we are right to be cynical. Unfortunately and regrettably there’s no alternative but to remain engaged.

“We need a group that will hold them to account and stay in discussions with them and make sure they deliver because lives are dependent on it.”

The steering group agreed to form a community liaison group to work with the commissioning group and monitor services at the new hospital.

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