Thursday, 05 August 2021

Chairman of hospital watchdog body said ‘no’ to report release

HEALTH chiefs banned a report on the new Townlands Hospital from being made public.

HEALTH chiefs banned a report on the new Townlands Hospital from being made public.

Corrine Yates, who chairs the new Townlands Stakeholders Reference Group, refused to allow a report of its meeting last month to be released to the Henley Standard.

The group was formed in September by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group with a remit to engage with the community and key stakeholders on monitoring the hospital.

But it has been accused of being secretive and lacking independence because its meetings are not held in public and its agendas are set by the commissioning group.

A report of February’s meeting was compiled by Dick Fletcher, who is the Hart Surgery’s representative on the group.

He asked Mrs Yates, who is head of strategic communications and engagement for the commissioning group, if he could forward a copy to the Henley Standard and was told he shouldn’t.

Mr Fletcher, from Hambleden, said: “The commissioning group and the reference group, which is just a child of the commissioning group, have yet to prove to be open and transparent with the community.

“I hope our MP will be able to move in the mysterious ways he does to get the commissioning group to engage — that’s the only way any progress is going to be made. Otherwise they will ride roughshod over the  community.”

Henley Mayor Lorraine Hillier, who also sits on the stakeholders group, said that repeated requests to allow the press and public into its meetings had been turned down because it would result in “negative” press coverage.

She said: “They shied away from it and said no because they felt there was a bias towards negativity with the new hospital.

“I said it makes it more negative by not allowing the press into the meetings because it looks like they have something to hide.

“I think it’s important that the press gets to see these meetings.”

The reference group has previously been branded secretive and a “PR machine” for the commissioning group. Mrs Yates has agreed to stand down in order to allow the appointment of an independent chairman.

Emma Torevell, the commissioning group’s programme director for Townlands Hospital, said: “The reference group was set up to engage with the local community and includes patients, carers, volunteers, Oxford Healthwatch and the steering group.

“They all report back to their respective interest groups after each meeting to pass on the nature of the discussions which take place.

“However, these reports are necessarily brief, with their own perspective and may not always give a whole picture of proceedings.

“They are not officially shared with the Henley community to avoid any confusion or mixed messages which we know has often occurred in the past.

“The accurate minutes of the meetings are approved and signed off by all reference group members and issued regularly online. These reports give the most complete account of what happens at the group and are freely available to anyone in the community who wants to see them.”

To view the minutes, visit

Meanwhile, on Monday, members of the stakeholders group and the Friends of Townlands Hospital were given a tour of the new £16million hospital.

James Wakeham, regional director of NHS Property Services, said: “It’s good that local people have had the chance to see the hospital for themselves and we are working with our NHS partners to get the building ready for services to start in their new home.”

The services which are being transferred from the old hospital will be open for patients on Monday and a formal public opening ceremony is planned for later in the year when the old hospital has been demolished.

The hospital’s new rapid access care unit, which will offer services including antibiotic treatment and transfusions, is not expected to open before May as a clinical lead for the unit still needs to be appointed.

David Smith, chief executive of clinical commissioning group, said: “We are really looking forward to opening the hospital’s doors to patients in coming days.”

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