Monday, 20 September 2021

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The price of failure

The price of failure

Sir, — The Townlands Hospital lunacy continues and all because the Townlands Steering Group and its chairman Ian Reissmann wish to ingratiate themselves with the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group.The group is becoming the poodle of the commissioning group by carrying back, uncritically, its messages to the people of the town because the commissioning group has no idea how to communicate.

Now the steering group has signed up to a covert group called the Townlands Stakeholders Reference Group which meets behind closed doors.For a single place representation on the group it is prepared to play the commissioning group’s game, whereby the commissioning group prostitutes its values and we, the people, never find out what is really happening.

The Friends of Townlands Hospital and the patient panels have all turned their backs on this manoeuvre.

The very name of the stakeholders group puts one in mind of rearranging the deck- chairs on the Titanic and would be Monty Pythonesque if it were not real.

Councillor Reissmann tries to soothe our anxieties by putting his own spin on the timetable for the opening of the hospital.All the commissioning group has admitted to is that the hospital will be handed across from the builders at the end of February (optimistically) and this is an opaque statement.

From there a whole series of events need to take place:

1. Decant the individual departments into the new Townlands, which will take approximately four weeks.

2. Knock down the old buildings and clear space ready for a car park, which will take approximately four weeks.

3. Build the car parks, which will take approximately four weeks.

4. Final commissioning of the hospital, which will take one week but when? I estimate that from Amber Solutions for Care handing the building over it will take a further 13 weeks or so, making an “open for patients” hospital sometime at the end of May and even into June, if all goes well.

How dare Cllr Reissmann tell us that the hospital will be open by the end of March or early April? The consequence of this timetable is that there will be no services at Townlands Hospital for a period of 13 weeks. There will be no accident and emergency, no physiotherapy, no podiatry, no X-rays and no consultants.

Why are the commissioning group and the steering group lambs keeping a silence on this? It could be you travelling to Wallingford, Reading, or further afield. We need answers, Ian.Let us not assume that the pressure is on the commissioning group to get the new hospital open. For every month that it is not open, it is saving £150,000! The commissioning group never was interested in opening the hospital in the financial year 2015/2016, as only hitting its budgets has been its priority. The saving being made is helping to meet the costs of reformatting the hospital floors due to Sue Ryder’s rejection and of cancelling the beds for the hospital — the price of failure.I have known Cllr Reissmann, Councillor Stefan Gawrysak and Dr Peter Ashby as wise colleagues on the steering group to which I no longer belong.

Will they please remember that the NHS was formed to serve the people? Tell the commissioning group executive that you will not play their games and form diverting and irrelevant groups.

You are rapidly becoming complicit with the commissioning group in hoodwinking the people of our town.It is not too late to make a U-turn and demand answers to the questions I posted in this newspaper four weeks ago — principally, when will the hospital be open to receive patients? — Yours faithfully,

Barry Wood

Stoke Row Road, Peppard

The Townlands Steering Group responds: “This has been an important year for Townlands and this is to summarise what has happened to our hospital and what will happen next.

Having started in May 2014, the building work is nearly complete. We have been told that the new hospital will be handed over by the Amber Infrastructure at the end of February and will be fully open at the end of March.

While the delay from this month is disappointing we are at least now aware of the new date. Amber Infrastructure is to hold a public meeting on January 11 to let us know about the development itself and all are welcome.However, the major disappointment of 2015 has been the loss of the beds from the hospital, replaced by eight beds leased from the new care home that Oxfordshire County Council has commissioned the Orders of St John to operate on the Townlands site.

The community and steering group have grave concerns about the change to the bedded service and whether it will be able to meet the needs of patients. The new ambulatory care model (based around increased home care) and a rapid access care unit in the hospital is untested and Henley is being used as a pilot.

Many people prefer to be cared for at home and the steering group supports the principle behind the new model.

However, the plans presented to us were not backed up with good evidence that the plans and resources exist so that the care provided to patients in future will be at least as good as was provided on the old Peppard Ward. It is obvious that not everyone can be cared for at home. The GP practices and Royal Berkshire Hospital opposed the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s plans. The steering group led the protests against the imposition of the new model but the commissioning group pressed on regardless.

Sadly, we need to accept that (for now) this battle has been lost. However, the concerns of the community and steering group are real and it is important that we monitor and scrutinise the new services as they are opened in 2016.The care home is due to open next summer. This means the leased beds will not be available until after then. In the interim, 10 beds at Wallingford have been opened to bridge the transition to the care home opening. There remain many unanswered questions about how the services will operate in the future, including:

• When will the new hospital be open for receiving patients?

• How long will Henley be without any hospital facilities during the transition period for departments and what are the alternative arrangements for physiotherapy, accident and emergency and consultant appointments?

• What date shall we see operational healthcare beds in the care home?

• How many patients who received a home care package have been re-admitted to  hospital?

• Are the adult social care services ready to support the ambulatory care model?

• Are the new locality teams up and running to deliver adult social care services?

• Will the figures for delayed transfers of care (bed blocking) be made available?

• Who is monitoring patient services and level of care received?

• What procedures are in place to inform residents of the town about the progress with the hospital and care home?

• What was the distribution and location of patients at the point of closure of Peppard ward?

• Which hospitals are currently being used for overflow patients?

• What happened to the relative travel compensation scheme?

• What happened to the War Memorial Garden, the artwork and landscaping?

• Are all contracts signed and in place for Townlands Hospital and the care home and others?

• What is the progress of finding providers for the top floor?

• What proof is there of long-term sustainability for both buildings and services?

The commissioning group promised at its board meeting to engage with the community in answering these questions and has set up the Townlands Stakeholders Reference Group with one steering group member to meet every three months in secret.

At the first meeting on December 8 no useful information was provided which could help with the above questions.The steering group is concerned about the effect of the lack of communication and has asked the commissioning group to meet with us urgently to review the outstanding issues and plan how to ensure communication to and from the community takes place in the future.The danger of the commissioning group not communicating effectively is already being felt and the lack of information has resulted in discussions which focus on personalities rather than the issues. It is important we get back to looking at the facts and ensure the community speaks clearly and in a united way on Townlands, which is still the most important issue facing us.”

Councillor Ian Reissmann (chairman),

Dr Peter Ashby,

Lorraine Hillier, Mayor of Henley,

and Councillor David Nimmo Smith,

Townlands Steering Group

Any effect on bed blocking?

Sir, — I have an elderly friend who has been well treated at the Royal Berkshire Hospital and is now recovering at Abingdon Hospital.

It is difficult for his equally elderly wife to visit him as she has to rely on family and friends to get there. It would be so much easier for her to pop into Townlands.

I wonder if it is possible for the Henley Standard to undertake some investigative journalism to find out if other local people face similar problems.

Also we hear that bed blocking is a widespread problem in our health service. Has the Royal Berks experienced increased bed blocking since the loss of the beds at Townlands? It would be interesting to know. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Hawkins

Berkshire Road, Henley

We couldn’t get free pint

Sir, — At this festive time many people like to celebrate with a drink and what better way than a visit to the local pub?The Henley Standard of December 4 advertised a free pint of Brakspear Bitter for every reader.

My round, said Tom Davies chief executive of Brakespear. Visit any one of the company’s pubs and present your voucher to the value of £3.80 and receive a free pint.

This generous offer seemed too good to be true and it was! I and several of my Henley Standard reader friends fell for it! We visited a couple of the pubs listed and were very disappointed to be told by the landlords that they were not accepting any vouchers.

It was explained that Brakespear had sent an email to all the proprietors stating they would refund the wholesale price of the beer plus the VAT.

The landlords would therefore not be making any profit to cover their expenses, such as rent, staff costs and general running costs — not very festive, Mr Davies! No blame can be attributed to the landlords for not taking part in this miserable scheme. We have five unusable vouchers, Mr Davies, and I’m am sure there are plenty of other readers who were also taken in.

Once again I feel Brakspear has let down the local community. — Yours faithfully,

Dave Keeley


Tom Davies, chief executive of Brakspear, responds: “I was sorry to hear Mr Keeley wasn’t able to redeem his vouchers for a free pint of Brakspear Bitter.

Having spoken to a few licensees, it would appear they didn’t realise that taking part in this promotion was not compulsory and some would rather not have taken part. This is the first time we’ve run a promotion like this with the Henley Standard, so teething problems are inevitable, especially when dealing with more than 60 pubs, but feedback is always welcome.

We have revisited the amount paid and have agreed that in light of the confusion this year we will refund the total amount for the free pints.Our main aim was to wish Henley a happy Christmas and hopefully drive people into our pubs to kick start the festive season.

We felt it would be nice to reward our loyal customers, as well as those who don’t visit the pub so often, with a free pint in their local.

We were rather hoping this would encourage people to visit Brakspear pubs they hadn’t been to for a while with a view to them returning to the pub after this first visit.

Clearly this hasn’t happened in this instance, so if Mr Keeley would please let me know in which pub he would have liked to spend his five vouchers, I’ll personally cover the expense of his five pints.”

Jaded view of Brakspear

Sir, — David Giles is not alone in having a slightly jaded view of Brakspear’s recent PR push (Standard, December 11). For example, it would have been nice if chief executive Tom Davies had made clear in his interview in your November 27 issue that the generosity of a free pint was not Brakspear’s alone.

While Brakspear may have provided the beer, it also expected its tenants to forgo the profit on each pint, despite having to light and heat their pub and provide the staff, service and general bonhomie for no public acknowledgement.

Similarly, Mr Davies likes to take credit for “bringing back the brewery” (in the Bull) but doesn’t care to remind us that he also closed the brewery in the Henley Brew House which offered an alternative to Brakspear’s ubiquitous beer.

And now on to the Rose and Crown in New Street. Mr Davies argues the pub’s closure was a consequence of it being used infrequently (usually once a year at Christmas) and, of course, the supermarkets.

But there was no mention of opening an extensively and expensively refurbished Bull on Bell Street, which sold the cheapest Brakspear beer in the centre of Henley and was managed by Brakspear in direct competition with its tenant at the Rose and Crown.

It was obviously in the economic interests of Brakspear to see the Rose and Crown fail and it did so.

I am pleased Mr Davies can sleep easier now the Rose and Crown no longer has a struggling tenant but does not the continuing ethical dilemma of competing with the very people whose rents and major costs he controls also keep him awake? Henley Town Council, South Oxfordshire District Council and the Planning Inspector on appeal all agreed that the the Rose and Crown should remain a pub.

If Brakspear cannot or will not operate it as such, Mr Davies should forget his “moral obligation”, to close it, thus denying Henley a unique and useful commercial asset, and let it be sold as a pub. If he can do this for the Sun in Whitchurch Hill, why can’t he do it for the Rose and Crown? Lastly, and as a matter of fact, the Rose and Crown was refused change of use permission to residential. It is now being used for residential purposes by Brakspear to house staff working at the Bull. It is not, and never has been, vacant. — Yours faithfully,

Richard Guy

New Street, Henley

Who’s going to stop rot?

Sir, — So now we can add the bus service and police station to the list of Henley’s now defunct/sold-up facilities which currently include the hospital, the Brakspear brewery (and numerous Brakspear pubs), the gym (LA Fitness), the skate park, numerous shops that are empty, closed restaurants. Have I forgot anything? I pick up the Henley Standard and am made to feel that all of these important issues are secondary to headline news such as a load of toffs dressed as penguins spending a fortune on Elton John tickets for the exclusive borefest that is the Henley Festival.

Either that or we see pictures of the Mayor reading kids’ stories or going for a facial.My question to the powers that be that run this town is what exactly are you doing to create a vibrant/equal town that we can all enjoy — people of all ages and all incomes? In 10 years’ time I can see Henley as a gated community with a population of about 1,000 who are all members of Leander and have no requirement whatsoever for buses, hospitals or police stations as they all have it provided to them privately.

Would the council, the Mayor and the committee that promotes Henley’s businesses please all stand up and explain what exactly you are doing to stop the rot that this town is experiencing? I’m sure that Henley residents would love to hear your plans as it looks like nothing is happening. — Yours faithfully,

James Lambert


At least you got a reply

Sir, — David Gealy should feel honoured that he got a reply from our MP, however unpalatable it was (Standard, December 18).

In September I sent an email to John Howell expressing concern about the closure by the Open University of its regional offices and the impact on the students, some of whom are in his  constituency.

I followed up at the start of October with a reminder that an Early Day Motion had been tabled and hoped that he would be able to support it.

In both cases I got an almost immediate automated response and since then nothing, more than two months of silence. I cannot imagine Boris being quiet for so long. — Yours faithfully,

Simon Fairthorne

Bolney Trevor Drive, Lower Shiplake

Why are toilets shut?

Sir, — On a recent visit to Pangbourne I was impressed by the Bentley, Aston Martin and Lamborghini garages.It was disappointing that on the opposite side of the road the public conveniences had been shut. It is a sad reflection on our society that some people can afford to buy these very expensive cars but the local authority cannot afford to keep public toilets open. — Yours faithfully,

Tom Wyse

Ludsden Grove, Thame

Small request to cyclists

Sir, — Would it be possible for cyclists, when passing horse riders and pedestrians from behind, especially on small country lanes, to give some notice of their approach? It would be nice if they could slow down and shout a warning instead of passing unexpectedly at speed.

They are silent and we have had a number of instances of almost being run down as they have passed too close at speed. — Yours faithfully,

Nick Boreham

Southend Common

Wonderful nativity play

Sir, — “Born in a barn, a Bethlehem barn, a beautiful baby boy.” On Tuesday, December 12 the infants and years one and two from Trinity Primary School began their Christmas nativity in Holy Trinity Church as every country morning with the cock crowingâ?¦ to the chorus of “shush shush”, don’t wake the baby.

The event is a little like your Christmas dinner. You know what’s coming and have been working so hard to prepare it and then on the day it’s marvellous.Any school production with infants which seems to go like clockwork must have involved hours of patience and lots of hard work from the teachers.

Of course all the little ones look exactly as you would expect — Mary in blue, the three kings with cardboard gold crowns and not forgetting the donkey who deserved an Oscar! “It’s a long way from Nazareth to Bethlehem on a donkey; it’s a long and winding road.” The angels sang and danced beautifully to tell Mary: “The Lord has chosen you, don’t worry Mary, hear the angels sing.” And then knock knock, who is there? There is someone at the door, no room for any more.

Angels call, wake up shepherds, don’t you sleep. Three Kings follow on camels with knobbly knees that follow the star.

This is followed by song sung by all the youngsters in that exuberant excited way only infants can captureâ?¦ “There’s a King and we believe it. There’s a new day dawning for the earth.” They end with choruses of a song which stays with me as I leave the church and sing it myselfâ?¦ “Born in a barn, a Bethlehem barn, a beautiful baby boy.” What a joy, what a wonderful start to my Christmas here in Henley. — Yours faithfully,

Andrew Galletley


Trinity Primary School, Henley

Great show by college

Sir, — Congratulations to The Henley College for its wonderful production of the Madness musical Our House.This was an impressive delivery of songs held so dear by different generations.

Huge credit must go to the cast, band and everyone else who worked on this. — Yours faithfully,

John Batty

Middle Assendon

Sam’s a star with ukulele

Sir, — May I pay tribute to Sam Brown for the excellent ukelele workshop she gave to members of Club SC youth club in Sonning Common. Sam is a talented professional who “gives back” to her community. The young members of the youth club were very enthusiastic. The ukelele is certainly an accessible and fun instrument for schools and clubs and we thank Sam very much for giving her time. She is clearly a talented teacher, as we see from the expanding number of her ukelele bands locally and her very enjoyable performances at the Kenton Theatre. We saw her opening the Henley Living Advent Calendar at the beginning of the month as well as appearing at many other local charity events. Her ukulele really has become a part of her — she is almost as famous for it as George Formby.

Thank you, Sam, you truly are a star. — Yours faithfully,

Carol Viney

Club SC management committee, Sonning Common

Thank you for donations

Sir, — On behalf of the charity Action for Children, I would like to thank all those who attended Henley Choral Society’s Christmas Concert for their generous donations.

We collected £452, which will be of great help to young people at risk of homelessness over the Christmas period. — Yours faithfully,

David Lewis

Choral Society member and Action for Children fund-raiser

We need volunteers

Sir, — We’re urgently seeking volunteer fund-raising representatives to help us at the Alzheimer’s Society to raise vital funds.There are currently about 8,468 people living with dementia in the Oxfordshire area and this number is set to dramatically rise.

A fund-raising representative’s role is not about knocking on doors with a collection bucket, but about visiting organisations that have raised money for us, on our behalf, to say a few words about the work that we do, collect cheques and say a heartfelt thank-you.

We are looking for enthusiastic people who are passionate about improving the lives of people living with dementia.Volunteer fund-raising representatives, many of whom work full-time, give as much or as little time as they feel able, often during evenings or weekends.To find out more about how you can support our fund-raising, email — Yours faithfully,

Jane Penton

Volunteering officer for Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire,

Alzheimer’s Society

Nature seems to think spring is here

Sir, — Are these the earliest daffodils? I took this picture when I was at the Greencroft allotments in Henley two weeks ago.

The power of global warming or just a warm autumn? — Yours faithfully,

Lewis Every

Swiss Farm, Henley

Sir, — The early flowering prunus provides one of the delights of spring, the one in the churchyard at St Mary the Virgin Church in Henley being a fine example.

This year, it and many others are providing a double delight and on Tuesday last week I photographed it in full bloom.

Early this year, I took a similar photo but that was on March 31. — Yours faithfully,

Ron White

Milton Close, Henley

Bathtime for Santa

Sir, — At this time of year, it’s not often I get to relax and freshen up before the big day arrives.

Rest assured that while you and your hearty readers were slaving away preparing Christmas for the people of Henley, I was busy beautifying my aged self in a rather decadent tub.

If you so happen to be passing on the Ridgeway at Nuffield please do say hello and give me a scrub.

Ho ho ho and Merry Christmas to all. — Yours faithfully,

Santa Claus

My nighttime images of our town

Sir, — Last week I was in Henley and took these photos with a long exposure time. — Yours faithfully,

Pat Sparrowhawk


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