Community Concerns Rise Over Sue Ryder Closure

On Jan 14 2020 – Sue Ryder announced that the Hospice at Joyce Grove is to close on March 31st.

In contrast to their statements at a public meeting of the TSG in Aug 2018

  • NO central location in South Oxon is to be provided after March 31st
  • There appears to be NO plan for an In-Patient bedded unit anywhere in South Oxon (population 140,000)
  • NO mention of the future provision of other services currently provided at Joyce Grove: Day Service, Helpline, Admin Hub

The TSG consider that the following statements in the announcement require greater explanation and justification in order to reassure the community about the future provision of End of Life/Palliative Care:

  • “After careful investigation with referral partners, the charity feels assured that the decline in patient numbers is due to a decrease in demand.”

The TSG believes the Sue Ryder needs to provide this data used to support their assessment

  • What is the assessed demand for In-Patient Beds in South Oxfordshire?
  • Is the reported decline merely a response to the reduction in the provision at Joyce Grove in the last 18 months from 12 to 4?
  • How many patients have been unable to be admitted to Joyce Grove due to a lack of available beds?
  • Where did these patients end up?
  • How many of these patients became reluctant users of the Hospice at Home Service
  • How many patients ended up as Delayed Transfers of Care (DTOC aka bed blockers) from acute beds such as those at Royal Berks
  • Why has the previously assessed demand of 8 beds been superseded?
  • “Sue Ryder knows that inpatient care in a hospice setting remains the right choice for some patients […] the charity will continue to work closely with other local providers who are already delivering inpatient care.”
    • It is vital that Sue Ryder is specific about how this inpatient care is to be provided, by whom, and where.
  • “Should a need arise for inpatient beds that cannot be supported within the county, Sue Ryder will look to offer beds for patients at the Sue Ryder Duchess of Kent Hospice in Reading.”
    • We understand that the Duchess of Kent Hospice is only partially open due to staff shortages and has no spare capacity.
    • Please provide data on the availability of beds in South Oxon are after March 31st
    • Please provide data on the recent and future availability and usage of beds at the Duchess of Kent Hospice
  • “In a recent survey* of the general public, over 70% of respondents stated that they would prefer to die at home and Sue Ryder continues to see demand increase for its Hospice at Home service in South Oxfordshire. Hospice at Home service now in its second year has so far supported 539 patients”
    • We would like to see this survey and its Terms of Reference
    • If the survey does reflect public opinion, how were the 161 patients (30% of 539), who would appear to prefer inpatient care, provided with the inpatient care they needed?
    • This number is similar to the 8 beds @ 3 weeks stay leading to an assessed need of 138 patients per annum provided by Sue Ryder to the community in Aug 2018.
  • “After careful investigation with referral partners, the charity feels assured that the decline in patient numbers is due to a decrease in demand.”
    • We would like to see the data provided by the partners together with other data used to assess patient need for these services.

The TSG and others are in receipt of many expressions of concern across the community on the lack of transparency regarding the closure of this important and respected service.

We have approached Sue Ryder and requested that they engage with the community to answer the questions raised here.

We accept that a clear plan with supporting evidence may be emerging behind the scenes, and when Sue Ryder (and other stakeholders such as the CCG) are able to share this information, the community will feel much more positive about the proposed changes.

Unfortunately, Sue Ryder has declined to meet with us or other community representatives to provide reassurances on the continuity of services to a very vulnerable sector of the community.  We have been offered a meeting in April, but by then the existing service will have closed.

The community and TSG are strong supporters of the services provided by Sue Ryder and recognise the challenges faced in maintaining the current level of service and the difficulty in making these decisions.

In order for Sue Ryder to retain this level of support, we call on Sue Ryder to respond to the their challenges and concerns of the community with the openness expected of this much-admired charity and provider of care and to sit down with community representatives to listen to our concerns and explain their plans in a much clearer form.

Issued by the Townlands Steering Group

Cllr Ian Reissmann (Chair)

1 March 2020


The Townlands Steering Group was established in 2003 by HRG Town Councillors when Townlands Hospital was under imminent threat of closure. The group comprises of a wide range of community leaders as well as Councillors. 25 Local parishes that lie within the Townlands catchment area are invited to send representatives meaning that tens of thousands of patients are represented by the group.

The objective was initially to keep Townlands open and secure the redevelopment of the hospital.

In 2016 the new Townlands Memorial Hospital was opened, along with a 64-bed care home. The old workhouse which is Grade II listed has been converted to assisted living units and 26 new key worker houses have been built.

Over the years the TSG has continued to campaign to protect, preserve and improve health care provision in the area. The closure of the Sue Ryder Hospice is the latest issue to be tackled by the group.




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