Unfortunately, I cannot be at the opening today of Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley by the Lord Lieutenant. I have to be in Parliament to help through the Neighbourhood Planning Bill which I know is important to communities. The first thing I would love to do is to give Townlands and all the people who work there my very best wishes. It has been a pleasure visiting and seeing for myself how the hospital works and talking to the medical staff and the GPs involved with it.
The people of southern Oxfordshire, whom the hospital serves, should be very proud that a major investment has been made in its refurbishment, and that it has become an exemplar across the country of how a community hospital can be made to work well for the wider community. I hope that we can now kill the myth that this is a hospital without beds. It does have beds – located in the care home at the side of the hospital – which are well used. The number of beds owes much to careful and patient negotiation with the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). Incidentally, care homes such as this are also helping to tackle the problem of bed blocking within Oxfordshire.
Feedback from patients has shown that the Rapid Access Care Unit is providing just the services people need. The system of ambulatory care being offered whereby patients are treated as far as possible where they live is endorsed by the Royal College of Physicians, by local GPs and by the NHS. It is in the best interests of the patient as is evidenced by medical opinion. Nevertheless, I am in the process of writing to the County Council on behalf of all the MPs in Oxfordshire that the County Council should spend the money given to it by Central Government for adult social care (an additional £16 million) on hiring social care workers. In addition, some 70% of patients for whom this is an issue want to die in their homes yet we still allow 60% to die in hospital.
The issue of Townlands generated considerable activity for me in Parliament from my question to the Health Secretary on rebuilding Townlands in January 2014 to a debate I initiated on Ambulatory Care and other questions to Health ministers throughout. I also visited a hospital deploying ambulatory care in Welwyn Garden City to see for myself how it worked and had extensive meetings with the CCG.
We are very lucky to have got the hospital we best need at this time and for it to be at the forefront of medical practice in the country. I have invited the Secretary of State for health to visit it.