Monday, 15 August 2022

Townlands watchdog to continue despite hospital being built

THE Townlands Steering Group has resisted calls for it to fold.

Members say it needs to continue monitoring the new Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley.

The group was founded in 2003 with the aim of stopping the old hospital in York Road from being closed.

It then spent years campaigning for a new hospital, which finally opened last year.

Some members of the group had suggested that it should disband now that the new hospital is up and running but at a meeting on Wednesday last week it agreed to continue for at least another year.

Those in favour of retaining the group say it needs to monitor how services at the hospital are performing and check waiting lists for each department and bed usage.

The group also has three representatives on the Townlands Stakeholder Reference Group, which was formed by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group in 2015 with a remit to engage with the community and key stakeholders. Councillor Stefan Gawrysiak, who sits on both groups, said: “More pressure is needed to get data on Townlands.

“The steering group should exist to appoint good representatives to the reference group. If the steering group folds the commissioning group will appoint people who will possibly just toe the party line.

“We should be part of an Oxfordshire-wide set of community groups where we are learning from each other about problems or models that are occurring elsewhere so we can put questions to the commissioning group.

“The steering group has got to morph into a scrutiny committee.”

Former Henley GP Peter Ashby, who has been a Townlands campaigner for more than 30 years, said: “The important thing about the steering group is it’s the only proper community group. We have a history of being a genuine public representation group.

“The reference group is becoming more questioning but that is largely from the people we have that have gone into that group and are asking questions.

“If we were to disband then the worry is that the commissioning group could quite easily select its own bods for the committee or put one if its own people in as chairman. The fact that we have ‘outsiders’ is great.

“We have a quiet role to play in carrying on. We don’t need a huge amount of meetings, probably one or two per year, but it does mean we have the ability to keep up with what’s going on.

“Having seen years of NHS administration, I wouldn’t trust them as far as I can see them.”

Mayor Kellie Hinton said: “For all my life it has been a battle about whether we were going to get this hospital and it seems a little bit silly now that we have it to let it go. The hospital is so important to the town so why on earth would we not monitor it?”

Group chairman Ian Reissmann said it could be part of a county-wide network of similar groups overseeing healthcare in Oxfordshire.

He said: “The commissioning group is taking a more county-wide view. What’s happened at Townlands may happen elsewhere or what’s happened elsewhere could come to Townlands.”

He said the group could have a more productive relationship with the commissioning group’s next chief executive than it has had with the incumbent David Smith, who will leave in December.

But town councillor Julian Brookes, who sat on the reference group when he was mayor last year, said he didn’t see any reason to retain the steering group and it could be quickly revived if necessary.

Fellow councillor David Nimmo Smith, who didn’t attend the meeting, agreed that the group’s objectives “had been fulfilled”.

A sub-group will be appointed to revise the group’s aims and terms of reference.

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