Friday, 06 August 2021

Deceived - health chiefs accused of lying

HEALTH chiefs have been accused of lying after admitting some of the beds for the new

HEALTH chiefs have been accused of lying after admitting some of the beds for the new Townlands health complex might not be in Henley.

There will be eight permanent beds in the care home next to the new hospital plus three more that can be accessed “on demand”.

However, another three on demand beds will have be “spot purchased” when they are needed, meaning that patients might have to go to hospitals in Wallingford or Abingdon.

The announcement comes despite a pledge last year that there would be eight beds in the Orders of St John care home with another six on demand.

This pledge followed widespread anger at the decision to scrap the original plans to have 18 beds in the new £16million hospital, which is due to open fully in May. The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group was blasted after confirming the arrangements at a meeting of the new Townlands Stakeholders Reference Group on Monday.

At the same time, the group’s outgoing chairman has been accused of banning the release of information to the public.

Members of the Townlands Steering Group are furious and have called on the commissioning group to honour its commitment.

Town councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, who represents the steering group on the stakeholders group, said: “The commissioning group promised the community of Henley up to 14 beds located on the Townlands health campus.

“I asked at the meeting and was told there’s nothing in the contract with Orders of St John that says all the beds will come from Henley. The commissioning group has broken its contract with the people of Henley and lied to us and our MP John Howell.”

Cllr Gawrysiak said the meeting, which was not open to the public, became “very heated” after the announcement as lay members, representatives of the Bell and Hart Surgeries and patient representatives expressed their concern.

He said: “People were saying it was shocking and a fundamental breach of trust. I’m sure the commissioning group will argue that it has provided the eight beds it promised but we didn’t realise that spot purchasing would involve buying beds outside Henley.”

Cllr Gawrysiak said it was another example of poor communication by the commissioning group after it was forced to admit that the new rapid access care unit, which was meant to open in January, will not be operational until May at the earliest.

He said: “The commissioning group’s governing body should step in and instruct the executive to honour the commitment made to us.”

Dick Fletcher, who represents the Hart Surgery on the stakeholders group, added: “We were all shocked. Every single lay person expressed the same degree of surprise.

“The commissioning group seems to refuse to engage with the steering group, which represents every parish in the catchment area.

“The experience of Monday’s meeting was dreadful — it was ‘them and us’ and we spent our time trying to extract information.

“It’s a crying shame now the building is there because all the commissioning group is doing is giving itself a bad reputation.”

Ian Reissmann, who chairs the steering group, said he had warned the commissioning group about the risks of poor communication.

He said: “Everyone, including our MP John Howell and the Henley Standard, has been saying there will be up to 14 beds in the care home and it’s the perfect example of how to mismanage people’s expectations with poor communication.

“We’ve been saying for some months that they are not engaging properly and the end result is the community endures surprises like this.”

In a statement, the commissioning group said: “At Monday’s meeting, it was reported that we had intended to use seven beds, in line with the board’s commitment to purchase between five and eight beds.

“Having listened to the views of group members, we will now use the upper limit of eight as our starting point.

“During times when more than eight beds are needed, we have the ability to access the remaining three beds within the same unit on the ground floor of the care home.

“If demand rises to the point where we require 14 beds, we will still have the ability to buy further beds by using Oxfordshire’s well-established spot purchase system.

“This system allows us to access beds from those providers who have beds available at the time they are needed without having to pre-commit funds.

“Our priority will be to purchase a bed within the care home wherever possible. However, if a suitable bed was not available we would purchase a bed from the next nearest provider to the patient’s home.

“The commissioning group has a responsibility to ensure value for money. In this instance, we cannot make a contractual commitment to commission, upfront, beds that may not be utilised.”

Mr Howell has previously described the promise of up to 14 beds as “good deal”.

In November, he said: “We have managed to save up to 14 beds for this hospital; eight on a permanent basis, the balance on demand.

“These beds are likely to be collocated in the care home being built at the side of the hospital where they will receive excellent medical cover. This is not a hospital with no beds.”

This week, Mr Howell declined to comment.

The Orders of St John will move from the Chilterns End care home into the new home at Townlands when this has been completed in the summer. It has signed a three-year beds deal with the commissioning group.

The trust has also accepted an invitation to speak at the Henley town meeting on April 7.

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