Wednesday, 28 July 2021

Your letters

Sir, — Flossy and I take a last walk of the day. All around there is

Sir, — Flossy and I take a last walk of the day. All around there is a choir of birdsong as they roost for the night.

An intense blue sky changes as the sun sets and we are stopped in our tracks watching the beauty. All too soon it changes again as darkness falls. Time to go indoors and find some food to put out for the stray cat who may have come into the garden and check that our own feline friend is safely in for the night. — Yours faithfully,

Diana Jackson


Cutting beds to save cash

Sir, — I was employed as a nurse at Townlands Hospital 28 years ago when it was part of the Henley Combined Hospitals Group, which included the Henley War Memorial Hospital.Now only Peppard ward remains and the authorities now want to axe this using the excuse that it is not needed because it is only a rehabilitation ward.In my day the ward was much more than this and after visiting the ward in more recent times I saw that nothing had changed regarding the type of patient they received, mainly the frail and the elderly admitted for various reasons.I would like to make it clear that I am not against the idea of looking after people in their own homes — in an ideal world this would be wonderful — but we don’t live in the ideal world, so I cannot see how the NHS and social services can find the money or resources to do this on a grand scale.To say that these beds are not needed sounds like total rubbish to me. More people are living longer and many of them will need medical care and sometimes they will need 24-hour supervision and specialised care that only a hospital can provide but not necessarily in mainstream hospitals.I cannot make any comment on the Oxford Clinical Commissioning Group’s outline scheme for an outreach department as I know nothing about it but I dare say that the area this unit will cover will be much wider than Henley and one wonders whether it could cope.I am also concerned about the five beds that the group says will be available in the new care home which is yet to be built. Will this unit be part of or separate from the running of the care home and will it have its own core staff or rely on the care home staff to look after these people?If these people need medical nursing procedures, who will do it? Although the care home staff are very capable, none of them will be trained nurses. I dare say that the already overstretched district nurses will be called in to perform these procedures, which is the norm for care homes. If there will be no beds in the new building then the authorities cannot call it a hospital. A hospital is not a hospital without beds and as far as I am concerned a new name needs to be considered.The closure of many of the cottage hospitals was a sad moment for the NHS. These hospitals were the backbone of local health services but some have survived and reinvented themselves. There is no reason why Townlands cannot do the same without losing beds.When the Henley War Memorial Hospital was closed and sold, the people of Henley were promised that some of the money would be ploughed back into Townlands. The money never materialised and it was spent elsewhere. One wonders whether the axing of the beds is a similar scenario and the money saved from the upkeep of these beds will be used somewhere else. It is a fact that the various health authorities are largely governed by the budget they are given. Sometimes to fund one service they will axe another regardless of who it will affect — after all, Henley is right at the far end of the Oxfordshire health authorities’ area and much of our medical services come from Reading anyway. We are expendable, I dare say.Finally, on a more personal note, as a resident of the Henley town catchment area I am very angry that the Townlands Hospital replacement plan after more than 30 years in the planning has been vetoed by people who, as far as I know, don’t live in this area and will never need to use the facilities. — Yours faithfully,

Ms M A Butler

Stoke Row Road,

Peppard Common

Invest in patient care

Sir, — What a potential for catastrophe to consider reducing the number of beds in Townlands from 14 to five.I reside locally and I have worked for the NHS in Berkshire and South Oxfordshire for nearly 40 years and every fibre of my body clamours “no, no and no!”There is a fabulous existing model of care on Peppard ward at Townlands, where you can be looked after by a local GP, remain close to your friends and visitors and receive care from an excellent multidisciplinary team. In fact, the care is so good that it is often difficult to access a bed for a patient as they are usually full!There are many reasons that a bed in the local community hospital is indisputably preferable in the short term to all the other options available:l It can be frightening and unsafe to fall ill at home and to have to stay at home (particularly overnight) if you are old and frail and there is no suitable bed available for admission.l Relatives, family friends and neighbours who are pushed to the limit caring for the frail, sick and elderly at home may need the safety of an admission and re-assessment of their loved one if his or her needs have changed or escalated.l It may be inappropriate to be admitted to a large district general hospital for a non-acute assessment, a minor procedure or for a recurrent long-term problem but this could become the default if there are no community beds available. l Community care even at its best cannot provide the level of care that one could access by an inpatient admission (such as double-handed care more than four times a day or overnight care).l It is far easier to plan a complex package of care when somebody is being discharged home from the local community hospital with knowledge of how to navigate the local services rather than the unwieldy obstacle such a plan can become if arranged by a member of staff in a large, busy NHS trust, however well intentioned.l With the best will in the world, the community services in South Oxfordshire are currently under such pressure that they do not have the capacity to respond in a timely manner to anything less than an urgent situation (when they do respond they are excellent). lThe population is expanding but also the elderly demographic as a proportion of our community is increasing and therefore the need for inpatient short stay beds is likely to increase rather than decrease.l There would have to be recruitment of additional staff to cope with the new ambulatory care model and it would need a savvy recruitment plan in order to attract the “right” staff. The provider would need to consider: subsidised housing; provision of a “living wage” (rather than the minimum wage), including payment for travelling time and means of transport (fleet cars or mopeds) to attract people to apply for these jobs in an area with such a high cost of living. There will also be a significant time-lag between the recruitment process and the length of time it will take to train up the new workforce. I very strongly believe that we need to be investing in the care of patients in the community as well as providing the full quota of promised beds at Townlands if we retain any hope of delivering the high-quality, seamless healthcare that every member of our community deserves. — Yours faithfully,

Name and address supplied

Mum would have suffered

Sir, — I am quite horrified at the proposal for Townlands’ patients to be required to use “step up/step down beds” in its planned care home facility, especially when the suggested five beds are to replace the well-used 14-bed Peppard ward.This ward provides an important means of recuperation for patients who have undergone operations — mostly, I believe, at the Royal Berkshire Hospital in Reading.How the powers-that-be can possibly justify reducing the number of beds from 14 to just five is beyond belief.This is especially bewildering at a time when major hospitals complain they are short of beds due to the fact they cannot transfer recovering patients elsewhere because of the downsizing of wards in community hospitals.My own experience of Townlands Hospital was when my then 89-year-old mother was a patient on Peppard ward. She had fallen and broken her hip eight weeks after my father died, was in the early stages of dementia and was clinically depressed. After an operation at the Royal Berkshire Hospital, she was moved after two weeks when a bed became available at Townlands, where she remained for moe than a month.There, she was given the opportunity not only to get well and, with regular physiotherapy, become mobile again in a less-frenetic environment than the Royal Berks, but she was also assessed as to whether she was capable of looking after herself when she returned home.In the event, it was deemed this would be impossible and she would need the expertise provided in a care home.The staff on Peppard ward took the time not only to help my mother understand this but also to help me, her daughter, make this heartbreaking decision.It would have been an all-round disaster if my mother had been shunted off into a step up/step down bed. She needed the 24-hour care provided in a traditional ward in the calm atmosphere of a community hospital.If she had been in the step up/down facility and had then been transferred back home to be looked after purely by daily visits from carers/health professionals, she would have had a lonely existence.No doubt her physical health would have ultimately improved but her mental health most certainly would not have. — Yours faithfully,

Carol Evans

Sonning Common

Stick to the original plan

Sir, — The original Townlands plans must be delivered.We need the 18 beds in Townlands and it is what we campaigned for. There is a nasty whiff of misrepresentation and collusion going on. Also some bullying.Stick to the original plans. — Yours faithfully,

Anne Coury

Willow Lane,


Put GPs on empty floor

Sir, — I call on the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to stick to the original promise of 18 beds at the new Townlands Hospital. In fact, as there is now an empty floor, why not fill that with beds or move the two GP surgeries to that space? That way, all modern medical facilities are under one roof.I have signed the petition in the Henley Standard. — Yours faithfully,

Mrs H J Hunter

Fair Mile,


Add us to your petition

Sir, — Please add our names to your “Save Our Beds” petition. Thank you. â?? Yours faithfully,

Richard and Anne Phillips

Greys Road,


Wake up and take action

Sir, — People of Henley, wake up! As we sleep, we are losing our beds at Townlands and, once gone, we will never get them back.Please, join the fight to keep this facility which we have all used in the past and is so vital for our community in the future.Add your name to the Henley Standard petition. Come on, act now! — Yours faithfully,


Fair Mile,


Our needs forgotten

Sir, — I fully endorse your campaign against the loss of the beds at Townlands  Hospital.It seems to me this has been planned with no understanding of the needs of local people. — Yours faithfully,

Mary Stewart

Selling our family silver

Sir, — Conservative MP Harold Macmillan was quoted as saying: “First of all the Georgian silver goes. And then all that nice furniture that used to be in the salon. Then the Canalettos go.”I think he was referring to the steel industry and British Telecom being sold when he continued: “They were like two Rembrandts still left.” I’m third generation to be born in Henley and over the years my family has seen the following sold off: Sherwood Baby Home in Greys Road, Henley; Peppard Chest Hospital; Smiths Children’s Hospital in Fair Mile, Henley; Borough Court Hospital, Kingwood Common; War Memorial Hospital, Henley; Fair Mile Hospital, Cholsey.I believe we have already lost from Townlands a maternity unit, baby clinic, children’s ward, mental health team and an ambulance station.It’s not only the NHS properties and services Henley has lost, but also Thamesfield Youth Club in Wargrave Road and now Henley Youth Club in Deanfield Avenue has been sold.Housing for key workers, such as police authority houses for officers serving in Henley, two in King’s Road, six on the Abrahams estate, six in Valley Road, six in Reading Road, a large house for the superintendent in Greys Road, the police house at Shiplake and, of course, our purpose-built police station in Henley.Is the town hall still ours? — Yours faithfully,



Alternative view from GP

Sir, — I am writing this letter as a previously full-time NHS GP for 40 years and as a vice-chairman of a family health services authority and executive board member of a primary care trust.As an Oxfordshire county councillor, I was the chairman of the Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee from 2005 to 2013, reviewing health services in the county on behalf of patients.If there is to be a full NHS service 24/7 with a level of efficiency and clinical safety as outlined by the Prime Minister, with which I am in agreement, then there will have to be major changes in the way the NHS is run and structured.The days of small local cottage/community hospitals have gone.When I met a newly appointed chief executive of the South England Regional Health Authority, I questioned why there was delay in funding for Oxfordshire Community Hospitals.His reply was illuminating: “Hampshire does not have any community hospitals so why do you? Do you want services for patients and better care or do you want bricks and mortar?” This has now reached a crunch point where there is conflict between the wishes of politicians, both national and local, and their associated public demands to which they pander, and the few wanting better service provision and clinical safety for all patients.Between 80 and 90 per cent of NHS expenditure is on doctors, nurses and other essential staff so the only way to provide full 24/7 service with clinical safety is to close all the small local and inefficient inpatient units requiring full-time staffing which would include locally not only Townlands but also the Horton and others and leave a very few specialist rehab units such as Didcot and Abingdon for patient discharge post-acute care and when admissions would be for days only and not weeks and months as it is now.We must not have another Mid-Staffs debacle. Inpatient beds would be concentrated in a few very large regional units with major transport hubs i.e. John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and the Royal Berkshire in Reading.

There would be no inpatient NHS beds but only social care beds in Townlands and others and NHS services from these units would be outpatient, diagnostics, treatment, minor injuries unit and centres for ambulatory and community care at home.This is most important for elderly patients as hospital admissions and long stays lead inevitably to institutionalization, making patients worse not better.By the way, this would not be a cheap option as good ambulatory and community care at home comes with a very high price for properly trained and sufficient numbers of staff.I have always been quite unequivocal about the state of our local hospitals and have been openly quoted that should I be involved in a major road accident outside the Horton, would the ambulance please take me to the John Radcliffe with its specialist trauma and neurosurgery etc.I will now have to duck to escape the many brickbats coming in my direction but it is time that someone had the guts to stand up for the other side. I have always had the best interest of patients, including myself, at heart.The popular and populist view of a hospital equates to inpatient beds but to a health professional, a hospital is a place where clinically safe, excellent patient services are provided.These two views are not necessarily incompatible nor mutually exclusive but please bite the bullet if we want what is best for patient care. — Yours faithfully,

Dr Peter Skolar


You voted for the Tories...

Sir, — I am puzzled by the uproar in Henley over the decision by the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to abandon the original plan for 18 beds in the new Townlands Hospital in favour of having zero beds.This group was, after all, created by David Cameron’s Tory Government as part of its 2012 NHS “reforms”.The Tory MP for Henley, along with every other Tory MP, voted in favour of this legislation.If the people of Henley choose to have a Tory as their MP why are they now complaining about the predictably detrimental consequences to their local health services? What cause will they have to complain when, having enthusiastically helped to paint the map of England blue in the recent general election, they find that, in addition to having no beds in their local “hospital”, they no longer have an NHS at all? — Yours faithfully,

Robert Griffiths



Keep your views coming

Sir, — We are pleased that the Henley Standard has given such prominence to our consultation on the development of Townlands Hospital in Henley. We want to hear people’s views and it is good to see that people are responding both online and by filling in and returning copies of our  questionnaire.With the consultation set to close at midnight on Monday, we urge people to continue to send their responses to us.We do appreciate that our proposals are different to the traditional care which most people anticipated would be available at Townlands and can understand people’s  concerns. These plans give an opportunity to provide local people with 21st century health care that best meets their needs now and in the future. The plans will also enable us to provide more care to more people locally now and in the future than the original bed-based model.I want to take a moment to address some misconceptions about our proposals. The rapid access care unit (or “multi-disciplinary unit” as it is sometimes described) would not be based at the Royal Berkshire Hospital but within Townlands Hospital on the first floor.Patients referred to it would be seen and assessed on the same day for all their diagnostic and treatment needs. The unit would be staffed by a range of specialists, including a consultant geriatrician. Last week’s Henley Standard stated that the proposed service would be “without the need for overnight stays”. In fact, there would still be some in-patient care as people may need further time under the care of the RACU team. Someone needing further care would receive it from staff with the right nursing skills on the Townlands site at the new Orders of St John care home overseen by RACU staff. You can read details about how we have calculated the number of beds at Townlands Hospital on our website.People’s attention has been understandably focused on the number of beds available at Townlands. Our proposal, however, gives people greater opportunities to have their health needs addressed quickly in a modern medical facility without the need to travel to Oxford or Reading, except for emergencies or truly specialist care.The Townlands plans create a health campus using two floors for the rapid access care unit, outpatients clinics, a minor injuries unit, out of hours services, diagnostic/imaging services, physiotherapy services, podiatry, dental services, speech and language therapy and the much-loved Maurice Tate meeting facility. The plans are complemented by having the care home on the same site.The top floor of Townlands was originally assigned to Sue Ryder. The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and NHS Property Services are working closely together to develop options for utilising the second floor separate to the plans for the first and ground floors. Our commitment is to use this space for health-related services.There is still time to share your views. Come to our final drop-in session at the Christ Church Centre in Reading Road, Henley, on Monday (June 15) from noon to 2pm, visit our website www.oxford to access the consultation documents and questionnaire or call us on 01865 334638. — Yours  faithfully,

David Smith

Chief executive,

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group,



Patients need some patience

Sir, — I feel I must write in defence of the Bell Surgery after reading Colin Alexander’s letter (Standard, June 5).I have been a patient there for 40 years and have always received excellent care and attention. I have a long-term medical condition and can always find someone to help when needed. Dr Langley and his team have always gone the extra mile in caring for me.There have been problems with the retirement of two senior doctors and another doctor being seriously ill. In all organisations this would be challenging but especially so in a small surgery, so perhaps we should help and support rather than criticise.We are very lucky in Henley to have two surgeries to care for us all and a new hospital on the way. I for one shudder to think how I would manage if they weren’t here. Travelling to other surgeries is not always an option.A time perhaps for patients to have a little patience. — Yours faithfully,

Janice Stow


So much for Tory pledges

Sir, — On May 7 at the local election, the Conservative Party took control of Henley Town Council with nine of the 16 seats. They have now been busy for 30 days. The first change was to remove Henley Residents’ Group Ian Reissmann from his role as chairman of the Townlands Steering Group. Ian has successfully created and chaired the group for 12 years. His replacement, a Conservative councillor, has finally agreed that he does not have the time to give to the position and has withdrawn, so Ian has resumed his  chairmanship.Next to go was Henley Residents’ Group’s Kellie Hinton, who chaired Henley in Bloom, where she was so successful and hardworking that Henley was chosen to represent the UK in the Entente Florale European competition with 12 other countries.There are five weeks to go before the judges arrive and Kellie is no longer the  chairwoman.Surely a little humility would enable the Conservatives to have the courage and good sense to choose the best person for the job rather than for their political affiliation.Finally, I read that our Conservative representatives at South Oxfordshire District Council have voted themselves an unbelievable 58 per cent pay rise. The Conservatives promised loudly at the election that they wanted the best for Henley. The first 30 days show little evidence of that. — Yours faithfully,

Gill Dodds

Former Henley Residents’ Group mayor,

Greys Road,


Fair-minded chairman

Sir, — May we put on record our view that for Dieter Hinke to lose his seat on Henley Town Council was very poor reward for the highly efficient and fair-minded service he gave to the town as chairman of the governance committee of the joint Henley and Harpsden Neighbourhood Plan? The whole idea of forcing the area to take 450 houses was very hard for many of us to take but the alternative was clearly worse for both Henley and Harpsden.Dieter worked tirelessly to get this point across and to deal with it in the best interests of all the residents.We who worked with him would like to thank him publicly for his sustained reasonableness and good humour through many difficult meetings. — Yours faithfully,

Councillor Kester George and Councillor Malcolm Plews

Harpsden Parish Council

Church hall should go

Sir, — I write regarding the plans to redevelop the old church hall in Watlington.I was brought up in the town, and so too my children, and remember using the hall as a teenager and later for a toddler group.We always found the hall creepy and often had to walk home through the alleyways at night.I think it is time for the hall to go and be replaced. The new build doesn’t seem to harm the meadows.Also, sell the old rectory as the money for the church would be well spent.The old vicarage used to host the annual fete for the hospital but that stopped some years ago.The area could do with a revamp and more security. — Yours faithfully,

Y K Martin

Windmill Piece,


We’ve gone off sculpture

Sir, — Thank you for publishing our letter about the new sculpture on the Tesco roundabout in Reading Road, Henley (Standard, May 8).

Since then we have been most interested to read the various comments from other correspondents and have come to feel that we like the sculpture less and less as the time goes on.It just is not a good welcome for people arriving in the town.We certainly agree with Mike Wiggington that a rower would have been a definite improvement.That would show a clear connection between Henley and the rowing world in which it is so important. The current whatever-it-is does not.The letters from Laurence Manly, Derek I Hammond and Nick Edwards were very much to the point.Can we get rid of what is there now and have something that does some justice to own town? Perhaps Mr Wiggington’s rower or maybe a rowing boat or both. Please! — Yours faithfully,

Patricia and Michael Paul

Mill Lane,


Worse than a conspiracy

Sir, — May I thank Simon Brickhill and Neil Gunnell for replying to my letter on chem trails (Standard, June 5).To redress the balance, I suggest one looks at this website, watch?v=F6r0GqbH9Os, which does not say that there is a conspiracy to wipe out the population but that it is a cheap programme to try to stem global warming and a good way of getting rid of all the fly ash waste that is created by coal-fired power stations. — Yours faithfully,

Val Stoner

Wyndale Close,


Where have birds gone?

Sir, — I have been associated with Peppard Common for more than 70 years.This year, for the time, I have not seen a swift in the sky. My wife and I used to sit in the garden in the early evening and the swifts would fly between the houses, screaming.An elderly Peppard gentleman on whose house they built their nests told me they arrive within a few days of April 14 and leave within a few days of August 14.Isn’t it wonderful they could be so precise in their timing, coming all the way from Africa, below the equator, when a train from Paddington couldn’t be? This year, I had a song thrush in the garden — only one — the first for several years. I can’t remember the last time I heard a cuckoo.Why is this? I wish I knew. — Yours faithfully,

Fred Harris

Chiltern Bank,

Peppard Common

Can you help play scheme?

Sir, — Many of your readers will have fond memories of the Henley Outdoor Play Scheme (HOPS).It has been running for more than 35 years and we have families where the second generation is now enjoying HOPS, both attending between the ages of six and 12 and later gaining valuable work experience aged 16-plus.Many people in Henley have been involved in running HOPS over the years and I am proud to be taking my turn and hope to live up to the example set by my predecessors.HOPS is run by a committee of volunteers who meet five or six times a year and then help during the week itself. It is a lot of fun and thoroughly rewarding and, as an added bonus, children of committee members go free! There is also a crèche for committee members’ children aged between two-and-a-half and the end of year 1 when they can start at HOPS.We need new committee members in order to keep HOPS running. We would love to hear from anyone who is available during HOPS week of July 27 to 31.Our next meeting is on Thursday (June 18) in the right hand bar at the Catherine Wheel in Hart Street at 8pm. Please come along or contact us by email at hops or via where you can find out all about HOPS and book a place for your child. — Your faithfully, Vanessa Lakatos Chairman, HOPS committee 2015

Woodpecker enjoying nuts

Sir, — It took this photgraph of a greater spotted woodpecker landing on a feeder at Warburg Nature Reserve. — Yours faithfully,

Pat Sparrowhawk


Surprised by moths

Sir, — I was walking down Greys Hill, Henley, just opposite the lych gate of the church, on the morning of Friday, May 22 when I noticed these two enormous moths on the tyre of a car parked at the side of the road. I did some research and found out that they are lime hawk moths, which have a wingspan of 65mm and only fly during the months of May and June. — Yours faithfully, Carol Pratt


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