Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Inside sparkling new Townlands (but no beds)

THE new rapid access care unit at Townlands Hospital in Henley will not be open until the summer.

THE new rapid access care unit at Townlands Hospital in Henley will not be open until the summer.

The delay was revealed by Dr Andrew Burnett, south-east locality clinical director for the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, during a media tour of the £16 million health campus last week.

The group had previously stated that the unit would open in May.

Dr Burnett, a GP at the Sonning Common Health Centre, said: “We want to get the existing service working well in the building before starting some of the new stuff.”

The unit will offer services including antibiotic treatment and transfusions, operating alongside a minor injuries unit, podiatry, outpatient services and physiotherapy and out-of-hours GP services at the new hospital.

There will be eight beds in the Orders of St John care home that is being built next door, with six more available “on demand”.

District nursing teams covering the Henley area will continue to visit patients at home.

The campus model replaces the 14 beds at the old Townlands Hospital, which is now being demolished, and is instead of the 18-bed ward that was originally planned.

The Henley Standard was shown around the ground and first floors of the new hospital but was denied access to the second floor, which is empty after Sue Ryder pulled out of a proposed move of its Nettlebed  hospice.

The commissioning group is negotiating with possible tenants, including the Bell and Hart Surgeries.

Our reporter was told he couldn’t view the floor, which has been built to the original specification with 12 rooms, while negotiations were ongoing as it would “undermine” the process.

Dr Burnett said he hadn’t yet seen the second floor himself but added: “It’s very similar to the first floor in terms of the layout.

“It’s not my building to give permission. Technically, this building belongs to NHS Property Services, it doesn’t belong to me.”

Alex Cameron, head of communications for NHS Property Services South, said: “The tour is to focus on the operational spaces in the  hospital.”

The guided tour began at reception on the ground floor, immediately behind the old Peppard ward, which is currently being demolished.

James Wakeham, regional director of NHS Property Services, said: “The NHS is very proud of this new facility. All the stakeholders have worked very hard together to develop this.

“We have reached a major milestone in the Townlands Hospital project. It gives us great pride to open this wonderful facility to local people. No services have been affected by the changeover, only improved really.”

All services have now been moved from the old hospital. These are provided by the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust.

The hospital’s outpatient department features eight consulting rooms, each with a bed, sink and desk, and one treatment room where minor surgery can be carried out, for example, the treatment of a small lesion.

The department offers cardiology and emergency medical services as well as clinics for patients with pacemakers.

Stephanie Greenwood, the Royal Berkshire trust’s Townlands service manager, said: “Colleagues are very pleased to be working in a bright and airy environment that is fit for modern health care.

“It’s a remarkable transformation from the old buildings.”

Further along the first floor are the staff facilities, with toilets, changing rooms and an office area.

Next door is the hospital’s radiology department, which has been offering a reduced service with an “interim” X-ray room because the machines did not have a “secure and robust” connection.

The full service is expected to be up and running next month.

Next to the X-ray unit is the hospital’s physiotherapy area, which features four cubicles with beds and parallel bars.

Senior physiotherapist Zoe Gasper said: “We mainly see consultant and GP referrals from the Royal Berkshire Hospital and Oxford.”

She said they helped post-operative patients and those with musculoskeletal injuries.

The unit will also host exercise classes and is running a pilot project for those with long-term chronic pain.

Other services on the ground floor include speech and language therapy and the minor injuries unit with four beds.

The first floor is still largely unoccupied with the rapid access care unit not yet in place.

Only podiatry services and the Maurice Tate room are currently being used. Dr Burnett insisted the model of care is the best for patients as it allows them to spend longer recovering at home rather than being stuck in a hospital bed.

He said: “The key thing is to keep people in their own environment.

“In hospital you lose a lot of muscle mass. We can get people much better, much more quickly in the confines of their own home.”

The Maurice Tate room is bigger than the old room and is being used by organisations such as the Henley Talking Newspaper.

Mr Wakeham said: “It’s supposed to be flexible so you can reduce the number of desks in the room and make it open plan.”

Peter McGrane, clinical director at the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, said: “It’s a great room for running training and educational events. We can use this for multi-disciplinary meetings.

“Our patients are already telling our teams what a difference it makes to be in modern, high-quality facilities.”

The room at the old hospital was opened in 1972 as a memorial to the quantity surveyor who was 39 when he died following a car crash near Henley in 1969. The money for the room was raised by members of Henley Round Table, of which he had been chairman.

Mr Tate’s son David, an estate agent, said: “I have lived in Henley all my life and have always been very proud of the Maurice Tate room. It’s fantastic that this community facility and the family name will live on in the new hospital.

“I was really pleased to be shown round the new hospital by representatives of NHS Property Services. I was very impressed by the building and am proud of my family’s connection to this excellent new facility.”

Mr Tate, whose mother was secretary to one of the matrons at Townlands, is working with the developer, Amber Infrastructure, on marketing the residential parts of the campus which are due to be released later this year.

The hospital will have 70 parking spaces for patients and staff.

Andrew Geddes, of NHS Property Services, said there would be a “difficult” period while the old hospital was being demolished and parking was phased in but he expected completion in July.

A formal hospital opening ceremony is planned for later in the year.

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