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Friday, 19 April 2019
THE empty floor at Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley could be filled by offering more outpatient services.
The Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust, which runs most of the services at the hospital off York Road, is considering buying MRI and CT scanners which would be put into the ground floor.
Some outpatient services, which include audiology and endocrinology, would then be moved from the ground floor to the top floor, which has been vacant since the hospital opened in March 2016.
With the addition of more services, this would enable the trust to treat more people who currently go to the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading at Townlands.
Andrew Statham, director of strategy at the trust, said: “There is already some more space on the floor we are using and we can probably expand the levels of simple diagnostics we do. Our next question is whether to put some bigger diagnostics on that site. Some of the bigger equipment would need to be put downstairs. In terms of upstairs we will need to speak with our partners.”
In the past year 4,000 bed days at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading have been used by people who live within 15 minutes of Townlands.
Mr Statham said that expanding the services at the Henley hospital would help reduce this number.
“We are conscious of the number of patients we have travelling to another site when they live closer to Townlands,” he said. “We are looking at what we can deliver locally so patients don’t have to travel as far.
“We have some challenges on our main Reading site and we are trying to release some space here.
“There is an argument for the more elective conditions and they could be better treated in the community if we work well with our partners at Oxford Health. We could provide an expanded model of the rapid access care unit.”
The trust already provides a variety of the services at the hospital, including cardiology, bariatric surgery, fertility services, general surgery, urology, plastic surgery, pain management, neurology and gastrointestinal and liver services.
Some other services are provided in partnership with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, including the minor injuries unit, day treatment services and physiotherapy.
Dr Toni Chan, associate medical director for the trust, said the aim was to offer more services and increase the number of patients. The number of specialist clinics at the hospital has increased from 13 to 27 when it was rebuilt and the number of patient visits has gone up from 8,800 in 2014/15 to 17,400 in 2017/18.
Dr Chan said: “We are aiming for 43,000 patients eventually — if we take it to the next level with the diagnostics and equip the site to do the work. It is the direction we need to go with our partners to make use of what is a beautiful building serving its population.
“We already have ultrasound and X-ray at Townlands and the next level we would look at is MRI and CT. This is big technology and would have to go on the ground floor.
“This means we may want to increase our floor space for outpatients and other services.”
Steve McManus, chief executive of the trust, said: “We want to work with our partners so we can bring other services, treatments and diagnostic testing.
“It’s about making sure Townlands is a vibrant space for the local population to receive a great provision of health treatments and diagnostics rather than having to travel elsewhere.
“Over the next five years we are going to be investing more directly at a local level. It’s about building up the level of clinical services that add value to our partners and GP colleagues.”
Councillor Ian Reissmann, chairman of the Townlands Steering Group, said: “We have been looking for a proposal to use the empty space for some time so this is a positive development. They are really keen to get more services out here.
“It would people are getting their treatment locally rather than having to drive into Reading. There are problems with overcrowding on the site in Reading.”
Henley MP John Howell said: “The relationship with the Royal Berkshire Hospital has been a good one for Townlands. The more we can put into the hospital to provide outpatient services can only be a good thing.
“It would be a good use of the top floor and I would encourage NHS Property Services to offer a kind, good deal to them.”
Gareth Kenworthy, director of finance for the commissioning group, said: ‘Plans are at an early stage and discussion about the level of activity moved to Townlands will need to looked at. However, we are supportive of the trust’s approach to bring more health services to Townlands.”
The empty floor has cost the taxpayer more than £550,000 while it is unused. The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, which is in charge of services at the hospital, had to pay “void costs” to NHS Property Services, which has a 25-year lease on the building from developer Amber Infrastructure.
The commissioning group paid £74,000 in the first month after the hospital opened and then another £492,000 over the next year, when its liability for the space ended.
Since then NHS Property Services has been trying to find a tenant.
The empty floor was built as a 12-bed palliative ward for a relocation of the Sue Ryder hospice in Nettlebed but the charity pulled out of the move in 2014.
It is still planning to move from its current home at Joyce Grove.
NHS Property Services said negotiations with prospective occupiers of the second floor were continuing.
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