Sue Ryder – Statement by Cllr Ian Reissmann

Sue Ryder Closure Announcement from Townlands Steering Group

Townlands Steering Group (TSG) shares the public’s deep concern over the recent announcement by Sue Ryder senior management that the hospice with its palliative care beds at Joyce Grove Nettlebed will close with effect from the end of March 2020.

Despite assurances from Sue Ryder’s Holly Spiers at the public meeting in August 2018 after their preliminary announcement of intent shortly before, that they would continue to consult with TSG and the wider public over developments we have had no contact from them since except a follow up by us which was met with the response that they would be in touch when they had further developments.

At the August meeting they expressed their intention to provide a new “hub” at an accessible location to provide:

  • the administrative centre for their “Hospice at Home” service which they were and, we understand, are committed to continuing and expanding;
  • replacement beds (expected to be no fewer than 8)
  • similar Day Care facilities as currently at Nettlebed

and that hospice service at Joyce Grove would not be closed until a suitable location for the replacement facility was found, acquired and ready for occupation.

Again, despite assurances on the above, the Sue Ryder announcement on closure of the Nettlebed facility included no information on re-provision of beds, nor on the promised new hub. It did not specifically mention what would happen to the Day Care service; Helpline; and Ambulatory services currently provided at Joyce Grove either. Instead, they refer to the existing alternative hospice beds at the existing units in the broader region, Duchess of Kent in Reading and Sobell House in Oxford.

We have been in urgent contact with the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) which has ultimate responsibility for the palliative care service in South Oxfordshire, and have been very concerned that they did not appear to have been warned significantly in advance of the March closure decision and announcement. We have also attended the most recent OCC Joint Health Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) to express our concerns.

I think we all have to accept, however reluctantly, that Sue Ryder will withdraw from the Nettlebed site in due course, as they believe the old listed building is no longer economically viable or physically suited to the clinical requirements of today.

However, we are deeply concerned as to whether the original promise of an appropriate number of replacement beds will be met, and if so how, when and whether it will be sufficiently accessible for local people.

We also have serious concerns about:

  • the number of beds suggested to be needed for palliative care in the South Oxfordshire catchment, both “end of life”, and short-term stays for respite or clinical purposes (having not seen adequate information on usage and need);
  • adequacy or indeed the existence of surplus capacity at the Duchess of Kent  and Sobell House units and their suitability in terms of ease of travel; and
  • that (contrary to initial statements) the facility at Nettlebed appears to be being closed before these issues are addressed and resolved.

We would also like reassurance as to the continuity of the provision of the other valuable services currently provided at Joyce Grove.

Initial contact with the CCG on the issue suggests that they are concerned, receptive to our worries, and will be looking to investigate and reach a resolution. However, with the closure of the Nettlebed bedded unit imminent, there appears a considerable risk of a damaging gap in a vital service.

We will continue to co-operate with all relevant bodies which will engage with us to represent the community’s concerns and seek resolution, hopefully with the result of being able to reassure people on the adequacy of continuity of service.

Ian Reissmann

Townland Steering Group

11 February 2020


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