Saturday, 23 January 2021

Sue Ryder to leave Nettlebed in weeks

Sue Ryder to leave Nettlebed in weeks

SUE Ryder will end its 40-year association with Joyce Grove in Nettlebed in October.

The charity is to move its South Oxfordshire palliative care hub, which still operates from the former hospice, to Preston Crowmarsh, near Wallingford.

The hub provides an outpatient nursing service and telephone support line as well as day services such as support groups and alternative therapies.

Sue Ryder closed the hospice, where it has cared for patients since 1979, in March, saying it was too expensive to maintain and most people now would rather spend their final days at home.

The hub, which was launched in April 2018, will relocate to Battle Barns.

The move was revealed by chief executive Heidi Travis in an email to Henley Standard reader William Fitzhugh, from Caversham.

She said she recognised that Joyce Grove had played a “significant role” in the community and that the buildng was still owned by the charity and had not yet been put on the market.

A Sue Ryder spokeswoman said the hub would move in about six weeks’ time, adding: “All services that are currently being provided will move across to the new site.”

Battle Barns is owned by Crowmarsh Battle Farms, an arable contract farming company run by the Chamberlain family who have farmed there for more than 125 years.

Last month Sue Ryder was granted listed building consent to install a partition, sinks and access control to the entrance door.

Its proposes to have offices, a meeting room, desks for its fundraising and “people” teams, a hot desk area, day hospice and examination room.

A design and access statement said: “It is intended to use units at Battle Barns as offices to administer the charity’s ‘hospice at home’ service in the Henley area once the care centre at
Nettlebed closes. In order to efficiently run the service, the charity wishes to partition unit nine to give two offices/meeting rooms.

“The intention for units six, seven and eight are to add a kitchen sink and two handbasins along with an access control system.

“None of the proposed works will impact on the external part of the building and will only have a minimal effect on the internal areas. We understand other occupiers have installed partitioning already.

“We will need more areas for handwashing etc once we fully occupy the units and wish to increase access security for the offices. ”

Sue Ryder had been planning to move out of Joyce Grove and sell it, saying it is expensive and impractical to operate from premises not built for the purpose.

It said the old house, which was erected by the Fleming banking dynasty in 1908 and has 27 acres of grounds, was tough for patients and their families to reach in bad weather because of its rural location.

The charity originally promised to set up another inpatient facility alongside the day and outpatient services, in a new location.

However, it changed its mind in January, saying demand for beds had dropped so a replacement wouldn’t be financially viable. It said surveys showed most people would now rather die at home.

The hospice had 12 beds but this number was halved last year when Sue Ryder said occupancy had declined to between 50 and 60 per cent.

The news sparked outcry among staff, volunteers and the families of patients who said their loved ones would have struggled in their final days without a bed.

They said people expressing a wish to die at home often changed their minds when faced with the reality. The charity has previously applied for planning permission to convert the Grade II listed building into flats.

The top floor of the new Townlands hospital in Henley was originally due to house a 12-bed palliative ward to allow the relocation of the hospice.

But Sue Ryder pulled out of the move in 2014, saying it would have needed more space elsewhere and didn’t want to be spread across multiple sites.

In July the hub’s director Maria Turnbull renewed calls for residents to support the charity through the coronavirus pandemic. She said Joyce Grove was facing a £1.6 million funding gap for the rest of this financial year and would be struggling by winter even if the country managed to avoid a second wave of the disease.

Sue Ryder received Government funding as part the Chancellor’s aid scheme for charities but won’t be eligible for a share of the £3 billion being made available to support health services as this excludes hospices.

The charity had to close its shops including the one in Duke Street, Henley, and fundraising activities were forced to stop. The shops have now re-opened.

Sue Ryder said this resulted in a “deeply concerning” drop in income and cast doubt on the charity’s future for the first time since its launch in 1953.

It is also faced increased running costs as it had to order personal protective equipment for its doctors and nurses.

The charity launched an emergency appeal which has raised more than £107,000 in South Oxfordshire.

Mrs Turnbull said the crisis hadn’t reduced its ability to care for patients.

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