Thursday, 11 August 2022

Your letters...

Madness or what?

Sir, — My adventures with the NHS in the last two years illustrate how the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group fails to communicate policy with the residents of Oxfordshire.

In July 2017 I had a replacement knee. I was ejected from the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading within 48 hours of the operation and re-admitted within five hours with complications.

After four days in the hospital I tried to embark on a course of physiotherapy at Townlands Hospital in Henley but this was made difficult by the privatisation of the NHS physiotherapy department.

As my knee continued to be painful, I returned to the Royal Berks consultant in February this year who said he would set up physiotherapy for me at the hospital. Nothing happened for a long period of time.

Being a persistent character, I entered eventually into discussions with the administrators at the hospital over a four-week period and finally received an explanation.

My intended appointment could not be implemented and had been sidelined under “no further action” even though it had been requested by a well-respected consultant.

Apparently the commissioning group has contracted with the Royal Berks to carry out operations but not for physiotherapy.

As it was described vividly to me, “we would not get paid by Oxfordshire if you had physio at the RBH! You need to go back to your GP and enter a queue for physiotherapy in Oxfordshire.”

This could mean another 17 weeks of delay to gain physiotherapy.

Naturally, I was somewhat enraged by this and asked why the consultant had failed to give me the correct advice. I was told that many of the consultants do not know about the new system!

I have subsequently realised that this new policy is affecting South Oxfordshire residents with routine surgery, strokes and other conditions.

Yes, you may gain initial acute treatment at the Royal Berks but subsequent treatment needs to be via an Oxfordshire facility or service.

Three thoughts come to mind with the new system.

How poorly the new policy has been communicated within Oxfordshire and at the Royal Berks. In my case there has been an adverse effect induced by being treated in a multitude of NHS venues.

The NHS is inherently a force for the good of the British people but administrative processes and administrators are getting in the way of dispensing the services.

I am sure I am not unique in my adventures with the NHS. What has happened to you and why not tell people?

The only way that this madness will be corrected is by communicating our frustration with the system and the incompetence. — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

Be a good neighbour

Sir, — I am writing with regards to planning application P18/S2434/FUL by Shiplake College to turn farmland into rugby pitches.

More pitches for 479 students and less countryside for residents of Shiplake, Henley and Sonning?

The fields are a landmark. The Campaign to Protect Rural England is strongly opposed to the plan. It sees it as the loss of productive farmland.

The Dobles have farmed here for four generations since 1908 and their reputation in the agricultural community is excellent.

The loss of this land (23 acres) and the isolation of 15 acres will make some operations unproductive.

One of the former governors of Shiplake College owns the land in question — conflict of interest or uneven playing field?

The college’s need for pitches is mostly in the autumn term. The focus changes to hockey and football in the spring.

The college used to travel to the Reading Hockey Club pitches. Maybe a similar arrangement could be organised and, with some control of the numbers of fixtures, the college will find that quantity is not always quality.

The Dobles have provided pitches that the college has used and then deemed not fit for use.

They assisted with the acquisition of New Field, a field at Lashbrook, pitches on Regatta Field and now Boathouse Meadow.

Stephen Doble is offering to resolve drainage issues. The current drainage system is more than 50 years old and needs replacing with a more efficient system.

The Campaign to Protect Rural England is strongly in favour of this solution.

Is this “mission creep”? There is a rumour that the college plans to obtain rugby academy status and link with a major club. If this is the case, the pitches are just the beginning.

Perhaps the college should be questioned about its long-term intentions.

Stephen Doble has had to diversify and work hard.

So we thank a family who have worked for generations on the land and have cared for the landscape of Shiplake by removing 10 per cent of their arable land and endangering profitability and efficiency. This seems very wrong.

The college, a mere 59 years old, should end its designs on the Shiplake landscape and work with the Doble family with 114 years of farming history.

Together they could sort the riverside pitches. Perhaps it is time for everybody to meet in the middle and be good neighbours. — Yours faithfully,

Catherine Saker

Loddon Drive, Wargrave

Shiplake College headmaster Gregg Davies responds: “Thank you for the opportunity to respond to this letter and also address other misinformation that is currently being circulated. We acknowledge that our planning application is an emotive subject. However, calls for opposition to it are founded on inaccurate information.

“First and foremost, our preference would have been to improve the drainage of the present riverside pitches. We are grateful to Mr Doble for offering his help with this.

“However, independent reports and surveys are conclusive in that whatever is put in place, at great cost, will be undone the first time the level of the river rises above any drainage system and expensive repeat remedial work would have to be completed whenever the primary drains are covered by floodwater.

“With the current topography of the area it is impossible to change the fact that the land is on the floodplain, vulnerable to the rising and falling water table and that the soil is largely clay and the ground has low permeability.

“It is important to make clear that we wish to exchange the current riverside pitches for the area identified in the planning application and not, as has been widely and erroneously reported, add to the current facility. The riverside pitches would become year-round agricultural land again.

“While the overall 23-acre site would be larger than the current riverside one, the areas required for the playing pitches themselves are almost like-for-like. Indeed, the application takes into consideration comments made by Mr Doble while preparing the application about wholly changing the landscape and preserving trees, which has meant that the total area is larger than is required were it to be solely for pitches.

“We sympathise that there would consequently be a loss in agricultural land due to the soft boundaries proposed in the application, although these areas would actually become more environmentally rich than if open arable land and would help increase biodiversity. The additional hedgerows and trees would also screen the pitches from the roadside and help preserve the countryside views.

“There are absolutely no plans to obtain any rugby academy status and this was the first we had heard of this rumour. The college, like many independent schools, has good links with local rugby academies and we are pleased to be able to offer them a base for training, on our New Field pitches, from time to time.

“There are no ulterior motives and the only long-term intention we have is to acquire the use of sufficient playing fields that are adequate for our current sports training and fixtures.

“We have no plans or any need to look at car parking, changing facilities or floodlights as is clearly stated in the application. We have leased the riverside pitches despite them often being unplayable due to them being waterlogged. We regularly update our risk assessments for playing games and these have recently highlighted significant issues, which a decade ago would not have been considered.

“We have tried really hard to be good neighbours and to work closely with the local community and with Mr Doble to find a solution.

Following an open consultation evening last summer on an alternative site near Shiplake Memorial Hall, which many local residents attended, we suspended this option. The new site addresses a number of the concerns raised at that time. As much as we would love to, it is not possible to ‘sort’ the riverside pitches.

“This response is already long enough but I would be happy to discuss the issue further with your correspondent directly.”

Oh, for independence

Sir, — It is not often that I find myself agreeing with anything Dick Fletcher says so I was surprised to find myself showing some sympathy with his comments regarding people being elected on their own personal merits (Standard, September 7).

Although his letter blatantly supported Henley Residents Group (everyone is entitled to an opinion), the suggestion of independence struck a chord.

Having worked with both HRG and the Conservatives on the town council in recent years, my observations of both parties indicates a strong affinity with Henley.

In that time and since, a number of councillors has crossed the floor, indicating a possible lack of belief in the political side but an intention to pursue their views nonetheless.

Similarly, some councillors have represented different parties and I am sure that HRG councillors vote for a specific party when it involves national politics.

This leads me to the conclusion that it may be time for there to be no political parties in Henley so why don’t we just have 16 independent councillors working together for the good of Henley?

This seems to work in Wallingford so why not give the Henley electorate the opportunity to elect their councillors next May based purely on their personal merits and what they will do for Henley.

In the last few years I believe the Henley electorate have become much more aware and involved in what they want for the town.

I also believe they are both bored and frustrated by the amount of time wasted at meetings with cross-party political infighting.

There is no reason why any existing councillors cannot be re-elected as independents and I am sure many of them would welcome the removal of this in-fighting. If we had 16 independent councillors they would be working with each other for the good of Henley rather than wasting time with political shenanigans.

All we need is for the Conservatives and HRG to agree to this. What think they? — Yours faithfully,

Chris Baker

Laud’s Close, Henley

Tories need robust policy

Sir, — Your front page story headlined “Tories force out chairman” (Standard, September 7) ) did not speak for those who hold true to Conservative values and appreciate the drive and vision of Frank Browne in spearheading a strong, positive and clear strategy for Henley Conservatives.

I note Dick Fletcher’s comment that Henley Residents Group are a “union of individuals dedicated solely to the wellbeing and prosperity of Henley” and that Henley Conservatives should suppress their ambitions.

However, the results of the two most recent town council by-elections in Henley are representative of what the electorate are seeking and it is not consensus.

A robust policy development is needed to ensure an effective opposition in Henley in order to achieve what is needed for the benefit of those who are represented by town councillors.

Those who have so vehemently opposed Mr Browne’s strong chairmanship and vision for Henley Conservatives should perhaps reflect on the words of Martin Luther King that “a genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a moulder of consensus”. — Yours faithfully,

Karen Grieve

Dog Lane, Peppard Common

Drama and division

Sir, — With reference to your front-page exclusive last week, the Henley Conservatives’ chairman was indeed forced out at a general meeting but this does not reflect the full picture.

Following that meeting the secretary, treasurer and all the members of the election campaign committee, except Councillor Julian Brookes, resigned in protest at what they saw as a retrograde move back to the situation which had allowed Henley Residents Group to have control of Henley Town Council for most of the last three decades.

You quoted Cllr Brookes as saying: “I had less and less influence…”.

That probably says it all and certainly explains why he gathered a group to force the chairman out.

After two by-election successes, Frank Browne was planning a rigorous town council candidate selection process to identify true community champions who will work hard for the benefit of all Henley residents and businesses.

It would seem that the prospect of facing such a selection process unnerved some sitting councillors.

But it is sad that Cllr Brookes sought such dramatic and high-profile action which promoted divisions in the party, making Henley Conservatives front page news for the very wrong reason — throwing his Tories out of the pram. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Sara Abey (Con)

Henley Town Council

HRG failing to deliver

Sir, — May I respond to Dick Fletcher’s letter, which extolled the virtues of Henley Residents Group and what a wonderful job they’ve done for the town over the last 27 years?

His claim that Henley is “prospering under the prudent care of HRG” is sharply at odds with the view on the doorstep with residents concerned at the lack of progress on measures to tackle such issues as the town’s congestion, through- traffic, Henley’s retail mix, the lack of town centre car parking provision and affordable housing, among others.

I would also point to the two most recent by-election results as a further indicator that HRG is out of touch with what our residents think is important.

Mr Fletcher then went on to claim that HRG is made up of a union of individuals who express no political persuasion.

May I gently suggest that he talks to his town and district councillors or looks at their social media accounts, which will swiftly disabuse him of his stated belief?

HRG is, in fact, predominantly an anti-Conservative coalition of the Left with the odd UKIP member tagging along. On the key issues that really matter to our residents, HRG has failed to deliver for almost all those 27 years.

Only a capable team of community champions with a carefully thought through manifesto, underpinned by good Conservative values will truly deliver the change needed to protect the quality of life our residents expect and deserve. — Yours faithfully,

Frank Browne

Former chairman, Henley Conservatives, Rotherfield Greys

Overpaid council chiefs

Sir, — Reading the article about 890 jobs at risk at Oxfordshire County Council, Councillor David Nimmo Smith’s remark about social services taking up a disproportionate amount of funding left me gobsmacked (Standard, August 7).

No problems then with new chief executive Yvonne Rees earning an eye-watering salary of £190,000 plus the £260,000 pay-off to the incumbent Peter Clark. That is almost half a million pounds gone!

I think the council’s money is being spent on overpaid pen-pushers. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs J Hadley

Leaver Road, Henley

Pledge only goes so far

Sir, — Although the Government’s most recent pledge to get more under 16-year-olds into NHS mental health treatment is good news, it is only a pledge to increase the current proportion (25 per cent) by 10 per cent and only by 2020/21. So much for the parity of esteem we have been promised year after year afer year. — Yours faithfully,

Paul Farmer

Wensley Road, Reading

Checkendon champions

Sir, — We would like to congratulate Checkendon Cricket Club on winning the Wintech Premier League and also for remaining unbeaten during the season.

A really great performance — well done. — Yours faithfully,

Mick, Stan and Pearl Breakspear

Dunnocks Way, Blackbird Leys, Oxford

P.S. Thank you for all your match reports.

Thanks for generosity

Sir, — On behalf of the Berkshire MS Therapy Centre in Reading, I would like to thank the people of Henley for their support and generosity during our charity collection held in the town centre on Saturday, August 11.

We were delighted to raise £663.02, which will be put towards the provision of therapies, services and information for local people with multiple sclerosis.

I would also like to thank the 14 volunteer collectors who gave their time to help us raise money for our centre. — Yours faithfully,

Tracy Watkins

Berkshire MS Therapy Centre

Helping dogs in Thailand

Sir, — I recently returned from working with the Sound of Animals charity in Thailand, where it supplies medical care and food to some 1,038 dogs in a shelter.

Most of the dogs have suffered abuse as strays or have been rescued from the dog meat trade in Cambodia.

I would most sincerely like to thank Henley Pet Shop for its generosity in donating an enormous box of leads, collars etc., which was most gratefuly received. — Yours faithfully,

Helen Southby

Greys Hill, Henley

Best ever floral show

Sir, — This summer, walking down town and along the riverside has been a joy with the most beautiful display of flowers everywhere.

Thank you for this display, Henley. Best ever! — Yours faithfully,

Jill Irwin

Singers Close, Henley

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