Sue Ryder

Sue Ryder at Nettlebed – what is the future?

Report on Town Hall Meeting – August 2108

The Townlands Steering Group met in the Council Chamber on 28th August with more than sixty members of the public present. Many had very personal stories.

HRG Cllr Ian Reissmann chaired of the meeting. He has served the Townlands Steering Group for 15 years since its inception. Five members of Sue Ryder hospice were present to take questions.

Holly Spiers, Sue Ryder’s Director of Hospice and Fundraising, stated that their concern was to improve the service by providing everyone with the choice of spending their final days either at home or in a hospice. She stated more people preferred to stay at home and this is their emphasis.

The Joyce Grove building at Nettlebed is listed. Nothing can be done without English Heritage’s permission. Building maintenance to required standards is increasingly difficult, making the move elsewhere unavoidable. The new location has not been decided, but it will not be a newly built building. Other existing premises will be converted to house the beds with all the associated services to the required standards under one roof.

The existing hospice will not be closed until the new one is ready to guarantee a continuity of service. Closure, she added, is at least a year away.

The number of beds would be decided after analyses of several “datasets”. Although, it was admitted, the population of the area is increasing, and the population is ageing, it was strongly hinted that the number of beds would be reduced. Instead emphasis would be placed on giving people the choice to spend their last days supported by palliative care nurses in their own homes.

Members of the public pointed out that many modest homes did not have the space to accommodate the required medical bed and other equipment. Furthermore, many people only had the working bread winner to support them – or nobody at all.

Users would have the choice to go into the hospice, was the reply, as the beds are only 62% occupied (a percentage that was contested by members of the public).

The hospice serves all south Oxfordshire plus a large part of Buckinghamshire, and the charity wished to ensure equitable access for everyone in the whole area. It was indicated that as well as a new integrated hospice, there would be local hubs for day patients to save them from travelling long distances, part of the Charity’s vision.

The difficulty for Henley residents is perhaps that we have the highest regard and strong affection for our local hospice and have supported its work financially. It is a local institution which we automatically look to for the time when loved ones, or we ourselves, become terminally ill. But, unfortunately, it is not ours. We share it with a large area and, from the meeting, it seems clear the hospice will be moved some distance away with beds lost.

New premises need to accommodate the Day Service, the Community Service as well as beds along with quiet peaceful areas which contribute to meeting the holistic needs of patients. We were told that to build a totally new hospice in the existing grounds is too expensive and that Townlands Hospital is too small to accommodate the integrated services.

The meeting ended with the members of the public reserving judgement until the Charity completes their review and presents their plans fully. A further meeting is now planned when the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group will present their views as commissioner of End of Life services.