Saturday, 31 July 2021

Developer blamed for Townlands delay

THE new Townlands Hospital is not ready on time.

THE new Townlands Hospital is not ready on time.

Patients and staff were being moved out of the existing hospital this week but its replacement is late because there is still internal work outstanding. The building is still surrounded by scaffolding.

The new £16million “health campus” is due to be officially opened on December 7 but that date now looks likely to be put back.

The delay comes after a series of controversies over the new hospital, which is already four years behind the original schedule.

Developer Amber Infrastructure, which began work on the site in June last year, has been blamed.

The company was due to hand over the York Road hospital to NHS Property Services, a government company, today (Friday) but on Wednesday the other partners and stakeholders were told that this would not happen.

In a joint statement, the firms said the target date had been missed due to a “longer-than-anticipated build time”.

The statement said: “NHS Property Services has been notified that practical completion of the new Townlands Hospital building will not be achieved by the developers as planned.

“Work on the facility is continuing and Amber Infrastructure is working with the contractor on a revised schedule for the remaining stages of the build project.

“NHS Property Services, which will take the head lease on the new hospital building, is working with the other NHS organisations involved in the project to update local partners on the latest position.

“Once NHS Property Services receives formal notification of the confirmed completion date, the organisation will be in a better position to determine details of the transition to the new building.”

The statement added that the bedded Peppard ward at the existing hospital would still close at the end of this week, as planned.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust would be responsible for “services being re-provided to patients according to their individual needs”.

A trust spokesman said: “All patients from Peppard ward will have been safely discharged to care appropriate to their needs.

“Some will have transferred to our additional beds at Wallingford, some to long-term care. Many will be supported at their homes by Oxford Health community teams, including re-ablement and therapy at home services.

“All ward staff have been redeployed to other services at Oxford Health.”

Other services will continue as usual, including minor injuries, out-of-hours services, outpatient clinics and community nursing.

Henley MP John Howell said the delay was “to be regretted” but he didn’t believe it was a serious setback.

“I’ve already made enquiries about this in order to understand what the problem is and how they are going to resolve it,” he said.

“The problem is the lack of completion of the internal work. The external work seems to be going fine.

“There’s likely to be a knock-on effect but at this stage it’s too early to say what that is going to be. It’s something I am pursuing to understand the implications for patients.”

Ian Reissmann, chairman of the Townlands Steering Group, said: “The important thing is to make sure that when the hospital opens it’s safe and properly fitted out.

“Obviously the NHS has to be absolutely certain the project has been completed to its satisfaction.

“I think we’re entitled to ask what the new handover date is and how confident they are they can hit it and what the effect is on services and patient care. We have to make absolutely sure the transition plan is still in good shape.”

Dr Peter Ashby, a retired Henley GP and member of the steering group, said: “I think if we’d stuck to the original plan we would have been in a much better place contractually to say, ‘come on, lads, get on with it’.”

He claimed that because the Peppard ward beds were not being transferred to the new building someone had “let it slip”.

“They have not felt the same pressure that they would have done,” he said. “The most upsetting thing is having a bedless hospital so in many ways the date of opening isn’t quite so critical.”

The new hospital will have a rapid access care unit designed to encourage more patients to be cared for at home instead of the 18 beds originally planned.

At least eight beds will be hired from the neighbouring care home, which is due to be completed next summer, and in the meantime patients will be sent to Wallingford Hospital.

Meanwhile, the second floor of the new hospital is still empty after Sue Ryder pulled out of a deal to relocate its hospice from Nettlebed. The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group wants Henley’s two GP surgeries to move in.

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