Saturday, 04 December 2021

Public meeting to discuss two hospice-style beds

Public meeting to discuss two hospice-style beds

A PUBLIC meeting is to be held to discuss plans for two hospice beds to replace the six that were lost when Sue Ryder shut its facility in Nettlebed.

The Oxfordshire NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, which is responsible for provision across the county, will provide more details and seek residents’ views at the virtual event on Wednesday, June 30.

The new beds for patients in South Oxfordshire would be at Wallingford Community Hospital and run by the NHS with support from Sue Ryder staff.

Since the charity shut its inpatient facility at Joyce Grove in March last year, the only alternatives have been Sobell House at Churchill Hospital, near Oxford, and the Thames Hospice at Bray.

Up to three patients from the Henley area may also use beds at Sue Ryder’s Duchess of Kent hospice in Reading but only if nobody from Berkshire needs them.

Campaigners fighting to increase the number of hospice beds in South Oxfordshire have welcomed the proposal but claim it isn’t enough to make up for losing the hospice.

The charity now offers outpatient services only through its palliative care “hub” in Crowmarsh Gifford, which also hosts day services like complementary therapies.

It’s believed that the Grade II listed Victorian property in Nettlebed will soon be offered for sale for around £20 million after Sue Ryder obtained planning permission to convert it into 20 flats. The charity says demand for beds had been declining for many years because people increasingly want to die at home, which is why it reduced the number of beds at Joyce Grove from 12 to six in April 2019.

But this is disputed by the campaigners, who are led by Henley town councillor Stefan Gawrysiak and Tony Hardy, whose son David died at Nettlebed in 2018.

They argue that many people need a bed when the time comes.

They are urging Sue Ryder to build a new hospice with between six and 10 beds in the grounds of Joyce Grove or donate a plot so that someone else can.

Alternatively, the campaigners could set up a charitable trust to build a new £12 million hospice elsewhere and ask Sue Ryder to contribute £5 million.

They are backed by fellow town councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group which successfully campaigned to save and then rebuild Townlands Hospital in York Road, Henley.

Sue Ryder was going to move into the top floor of the new £16 million “health campus” but it pulled out in 2014, saying there wasn’t enough space for its day services. The steering group will host the meeting, which will be chaired by Rosalind Pearce, executive director of the watchdog group Healthwatch Oxfordshire.

There will be a presentation by Dr Guy Rooney, deputy chief executive of the commissioning group, and locality clinical director Dr Ed Capo-Bianco, of Goring and Woodcote Medical Practice.

Peter McGrane, the clinical director of the Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which is responsible for mental health and social care, will also speak.

The commissioning group accepts that some people with “very complex” needs require inpatient care and says the beds at Wallingford would reduce the need for families to travel.

Councillor Reissmann said: “We look forward to hearing an analysis of the commissioning group’s figures to back up what they believe is the level of need for palliative care beds in South Oxfordshire.

“We’re pleased that they accept a need exists and would like to see [their proposal] up and running as soon as possible.

“It will definitely leave the district in a better position than before.

“We will scrutinise their figures to ensure they’re robust and will also ask whether they have any plans for if and when demand outstrips supply.” Cllr Gawrysiak said: “I’m extremely pleased that we now have a meeting with the commissioning group, which — unlike Sue Ryder — has been very co-operative, although I believe the need for inpatient care beds will clearly exceed the two being offered at the moment.”

Meanwhile, Sue Ryder’s chief executive Heidi Travis is to have a private meeting with the campaigners on Tuesday.

Cllr Reissmann said: “We’re looking forward to the meeting. It’s always better when people sit down and try to solve problems, whether face-to-face or online. That’s the first step in making progress or at least understanding each other’s positions.”

Cllr Gawrysiak said: “We’re looking forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with them.”

Sue Ryder accepted 15 referrals from South Oxfordshire patients to the Duchess of Kent hospice in the 12 months from April 2020 and it continues to accept them.

A spokeswoman said: “The future provision of inpatient unit beds for patients in South Oxfordshire is a decision for the commissioning group, not Sue Ryder.

“We continue to remain open to discussing any future plans the commissioning grop may like to explore for the South Oxfordshire community.”

The public meeting is at 6.30pm. Visit

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