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The Oxfordshire County Council have just published a leaflet outlining their latest proposals about the hospital and Castle View.� The Hospital Action Group have expressed their views in a leaflet.

There are still two outstanding issues which have to be sorted out.
The Hospital Action Group needs your support. Please e-mail your views to the address below. Every response is important.

We demand that any accident service shouId be be a walk-in, 24-hr, 7-day, hospital based service.

We are alarmed that the PCT is planning for the in-patient beds to be run by the Order of St John with existing NHS staff seconded to them. This means the beds will be in the Care Home part of the facility with NHS facilities located elsewhere. Further we are now told that when NHS staff leave they will be replaced by OoSJ staff, signalling a steady running down of NHS commitments in Chipping Norton and District. This will be a new venture for OoSJ as they have not run a hospital before. Nursing staff, GPs and the general public strongly oppose this plan and wish to see the beds and nurses retained with in the NHS. People want to keep a proper NHS hospital where the NHS own the land, bricks and mortar as well as managing and staffing it.

Please Email your comments to:

Site identified for care home

A site has been chosen for the care home in Chipping Norton which will house services moving from the town's hospital. Oxfordshire County Council is building a replacement for its ageing Castle View care home, and Cherwell Vale Primary Care Trust -- which runs Chipping Norton's 85-year-old hospital in Spring Street -- plans to move some beds and services into the new building. Council officers have identified land at Rock Hill Farm, at the edge of the town off London Road, as the most suitable site. A final decision will be made when the council's executive is given a recommendation at its meeting on March 15. Speaking at a meeting of the healthcare users group, Nick Welch, head of planning for Oxfordshire County Council's social and healthcare department, said anyone wanting to get an idea of what the building will look like should visit the new Madley Park House, in Witney, or Westgate House, in Wallingford. Both care homes are run by the Order of St John -- the charity which will operate the new building in Chipping Norton.

Wednesday's meeting had to be moved to a different room in Chipping Norton Town Hall when about 50 members of the public arrived. Mr Welch said other locations for the care home had been quickly ruled out. Using land left vacant by the Parker Knoll furniture factory was impossible because of "issues involving the owner", developer Wimpey. Rebuilding Castle View was also impractical because the site was too small. Mr Welch said: "Rock Hill Farm is a 20-acre site -- it's pretty flat, it's owned by the county council and there's plenty of space. The Castle View site would be severely limiting and would compromise future facilities there." At least one GP surgery is interested in moving to the Rock Hill Farm site. Jackie Sheppard, from property consultant Atkins, said: "It's a good site for mixed use. We don't want to miss the possibility for some employment and maybe some affordable housing. We don't want it to become a healthcare ghetto, but healthcare would get priority."


Editors Note : Couldn't locate a pic of the Witney home. Anybody help Left is the Wallingford Home. Right is the Didcot home just opened. I think we get the idea!!


Feb 16th. Another big hospital meeting in the Town Hall. The Health Care Authority (PCT) and the County Council came to discuss their plans for the future of Castleview and the Hospital with the Hospital Users Group. The meeting was in public and about eighty people turned up at five o' clock in the afternoon.� It was a meeting of two halves.

Members of the Users Group Stephen Weston, Rob Evans, Eve Coles, Clive Hill, Jo Graves


Having been agonising over this decision for several years the County now tell us that the choice is "no contest". The short list came down to two - the existing Castleview site and what we are now calling Rock Hill Farm, which is the huge area of greenfield land directly opposite Parker Knoll, owned by the OCC and previously zoned for housing in the local plan. They need 2.5 acres for the care home/hospital with more room for future expansion (like accommodating the town surgeries at least one of which seems to have decided that they might be better off on the hospital site. The other surgery could follow). Castleview is on a big slope. Building costs would be 40% higher there. Its in a conservation area. More extra costs. There are tree preservation orders. But the clincher is that the Castleview site is simply not big enough. It will be possible to get the developers to contribute to the increased costs of the transport infrastructure necessary to make Rock Hill Farm easily accessible - like a shuttle bus from the town centre. So thats it then. Not an actual decision until the County Executive meet on the 15th March......but a clear single recommendation and a foregone conclusion now. And what about the promised "consultation" Well folks there will be a leaflet available next week around town - explaining the choice of site to you. If you really feel strongly you could let the County know your views but� nobody will be listening. Everyone will be too busy finishing off the proposal to the Executive. This is now water under the bridge. The care home and Hospital will be at Rock Hill Farm. Lets move on to the much much more important question of� exactly what kind of hospital is going to be on this site.

The debate around the town is easily summarised as - are we going to get a "real" hospital like we have at present - with wards and properly trained nurses - offering intermediate care, maternity, x ray and dealing with minor injuries. Or are we going to get a series of bits and pieces - managed and run by different people tacked on to a residential care home and so "flexible" that any "hospital" identity is completely lost. Something that could be closed down, privatised or re-arranged at any time. The biggest argument surrounds the 14 "intermediate care" beds which the PCT have undertaken to buy from OCP (Oxford Care Partnership - a joint venture private company with two shareholders. Pilgrims Housing Association and Order of St John. They are contracted to build residential homes and provide care for the whole of Oxfordshire) We understand that the economics of this whole deal do seem to depend on the NHS-funded beds being part of an integrated building and services package to cover the care home and the hospital. Costs (like building, maintenance, heating, catering) will be spread. We do understand that the NHS will provide a useful guaranteed fee income to OCP. What we simply don't understand is why these NHS beds need to be handed over "lock, stock and barrel" to OCP (Order of St John) to manage. The Order of St John run care homes. They do not claim to be in the hospital business. They have never run a hospital. We are told that the 14 hospital beds will be in single rooms. They will be in the Care home building. They will be staffed by NHS nurses who have been seconded to the Order of St John. When staff leave they will be replaced by Order of St John staff. This all sounds very fishy to townsfolk who have a much simpler model in their minds. It all smacks of setting up a structure where it will be the easiest thing in the world to pull the plug and say "NHS Cost savings required. No more hospital beds. These 14 beds will now simply be part of the Order of St John Care Home." The town is desperately looking for a reassurance that the NHS is committed to staying in the town and running a proper community hospital operation and it keeps getting the opposite signals. The latest information to leak out suggested that beds in the new hospital would be reserved for people over 55 (this was denied last night by the PCT). What the PCT don't seem to understand is that we all know someone on the staff at Castleview� - they look after�many townsfolk's �elderly relatives. They are a very dedicated and hard-working group of people�much respected in the community. And we know they are not all happy with the Order of St John and the way they treat everything in terms of running a business. We also know and admire the nursing staff at the Hospital and we know that they will be extremely reluctant to be "seconded". They know all about the Order of St John too. We are amazed that the hospital staff have not yet been consulted about any of this. We have all seen Panorama reports on the privatisation of council services. And we can see where this is all heading because we talk to the many Asian girls who work at the town's private care homes as they wait for the Oxford bus. We get some idea of their working conditions. Above all there is a very real affection and respect for the NHS in people's minds. Everyone local has a story of wonderful NHS care in one of the local hospitals.� All this is in our minds. But "Trust us" says Hazel Knott of the PCT. "We will determine the standards required. If the Order of St John don't deliver they won't be paid. We will be in control"� Pull the other one Hazel....we know this is not true. In the grand scheme of things in Oxfordshire the Order of St John has a huge multi-million contract running thousands of residential care home beds. When push comes to shove the Northern PCT with its 14 beds in Chipping Norton will have absolutely no clout at all.

To your reporters eyes, the only glimmer of hope in all this came when the new Chief Executive of the enlarged PCT Mike Williams got up to speak. He explained - as nobody else from the PCT has done before - that he was under� very clear "not optional" orders from government to ensure that 15% of total PCT spending is in the private/voluntary sector within the next few years. The government wants to break the monopoly of the NHS as a matter of policy. So he had to find areas of PCT spending which could be transferred to the Private sector. This all came as a bit of a revelation. The penny suddenly dropped for your reporter as to why the PCT have been stubbornly pursuing this model of "seconded" nurses. (It also probably explains why they are trying to hive off the MIU) Up to now the PCT have been busy trying to persuade us that their new plans are entirely about improvements to services. But before we transfer all our anger on to Mr Blair and his national government we need to know a few more things. Surely Mr Williams you can get to 15% by outsourcing catering, maintenance, transport, walk-in surgeries in Banbury and Bicester etc.� Nursing care in a small community hospital just seems like the very last thing that it makes sense to ask a third party to manage. Thats exactly where you want commitment and continuity and where cost should be the very last consideration. But I think we all felt in the audience that for the very first time the PCT had fielded somebody we can trust and do business with. Please Mr Williams spare the time to discuss with us whether it is still not possible to find a way which gives the people of Chippy a tangible reassurance that the NHS plans to stay fully-involved but doesn't ruin all your performance figures. It is difficult to believe that the salary cost of� nurses in Chippy Hospital could make that sort of difference. You see those costs as a figure to move around the books. Unfortunately in Chippy people are now looking for the catch,� and the PCT's willingness to employ its own hospital nurses has become a symbol of the extent of the PCT's true commitment.
On the MIU there was no progress. Another meeting was requested to talk about this. I don't think the PCT responded. They looked as if they had had enough of talking at that point and hurried off back to Banbury or Bicester. They must have been thinking...."My god these Chippy people are a pain - a really ungrateful lot."

��� AMBULANCE STATION .....and matters arising.

District Councillor Hilary Biles has contacted us ......"T
he Ambulance Trust attended the Economic & Social Overview & Scrutiny meeting yesterday .
I questioned the Trust about the Chipping Norton ASAP. It was confirmed that the lease has been signed for use of the Fire Station and that PTS ambulances and A & E Ambulances will be stationed there. There are still one or two issues to be sorted out but the expected start date is February".

�After six months satisfactory operations from the Fire Station the Ambulance Service will be allowed to sell its Chippy station in Spring Street. They have already announced their intention to do that. With the Castleview/Hospital outcome looking increasingly like a new build up at Cromwell Park, a huge new development site is opening up. With three separate owners (the NHS, the OCC and the Ambulance Trust) all trying to maximise their income and the District (who are the Planning Authority) sticking their oar in, we are likely to end up with a complete dogs breakfast of a development. What we need is an overall development plan NOW!! and the District need to prepare this. But up to now they seem to have refused to get involved with this kind of thing. They said ages ago that an overall plan was needed for the Burgage plots (the land between High Street and Albion Street). Nothing has been done. Its important to think about the Castleview/Hospital/Ambulance Station site early because we need to settle which community facilities we intend to get the developers to provide under Section 106 agreements. For example, a new road layout, a youth centre and a library should be the starting point. Is Chestnuts (the huge Victorian pile on the Castleview site) to be retained Should the main Hospital building be listed and refurbished What about the trees...including the famous Wych Elm If we don't start thinking about these things now the bulldozers will have arrived. This is great chance to create an exciting and attractive new quarter in the town. Don't lets miss it.


The County Council is now pressing on to try and finalise its plan for a new Care Home and PCT Hospital on Rockhill Farm and a� re-development plan� for the existing Castleview site. It's obvious that there are still a few snags along the way to be cleared up. In a site option appraisal report to the County Council last week a couple are mentioned......

"The Ambulance Station site is owned by the Oxfordshire Ambulance Trust. Unfortunately, there is a dispute between the County Council and the Trust in relation to the site boundaries. Atkins has been negotiating for several months, on behalf of the County Council to acquire the Ambulance site "off-market". Because the Trust is under a misapprehension that it owns more of the site than the Council believes, and because a residential developer is looking at a large scheme (which also includes part of the County�s land), the Trust believes the property should be offered on the open market. Until the title dispute and planning potential have been exhausted, it is difficult to see how the Ambulance Trust could be persuaded to sell quickly".

"An alternative option is to access the farmland from the London Road via Rockhill Farm Court. This site (now a small residential development of the former Rockhill farmyard) was sold by the County Council several years ago. The sale agreement retained rights of access to the Council�s retained land. However, the rights of access were retained for residential use only: the Care Home could fall within this description and we believe there are ways in which this restriction could be overcome. However, the latter could create delay. The other concern with this London Road access is that the road width and the visibility splays onto the London Road are limited. Unfortunately (in practical, if not aesthetic, terms), the trees on London Road that limit the visibility splays are subject to Tree Preservation Orders and are highly valued by the townspeople"

"if (the Care Home development is) situated on the farmland, the land is subject to an Agricultural Tenancy Agreement. The lease terms provide that the farmer should be given 12 months notice, prior to having to give vacant possession. In this case we have a good relationship with the farmer, and we hope that a shorter notice period may be negotiable".



Yesterday (Wednesday) in the Town Hall Mike Williams Chief Executive of the PCT came to meet the Chippy Hospital Users Group - chaired on this occasion by County Councillor Rob Evans. Mike made two very important announcements. First he thinks he can now see a way whereby the 14 intermediate care beds in their own wing of a new care home can continue to be managed and staffed by the NHS. Not a promise yet but he sounded confident.�� Second he said he was also confident that it was going to be possible for the NHS to buy the land on which its services would be provided in the new complex (including the wing with the 14 intermediate care beds) ...which would be a re-investment of funds from the sale of the present hospital and represent a genuine long-term commitment to the town. These are the two key demands which have been made over recent months by the User Group and the Action Group. Everyone is really impressed that ever since Mike Williams took over the Chief Executive role he has been completely open and honest, and has gone to enormous lengths to understand the town's concerns. We also understand better some of the pressures he operates under. Thanks to his understanding and the hard work of a lot of other people we now seem to have reached a terrific outcome. There remains the question of a Minor Injuries Service and the precise form it will take. Mike Williams says there are a number of options and he will hold a separate consultation about that as soon as the General Election is over.� We will surely find a solution on that.

It would be really nice if the Hospital could now be kept out of the various Election campaigns. It amazes me that with all the heavyweight stuff on his plate, David Cameron has been able as our sitting MP to actively press the town case on the hospital as vigorously as he has. Rob Evans and Hilary Biles have both worked their socks off fighting the town's case - but then so have Stephen Weston and Chunky Townley as chairmen of the User Group and the Action Group along with a dozen other people. For goodness sake don't let's get bogged down in an argument about who deserves most credit. There are plenty of other issues to fight about. Lets just be thankful that on this one the community working together - and across party lines - seems to have pulled it off. Well done everyone!! Feels good.

Just to recap some of the background....Promised so far is a completely new facility. The proposal is for a new build on the Rock Hill Farm site (opposite Parker Knoll) to include both a care home and the new hospital. The town surgeries will be encouraged to locate there. The new hospital will comprise: 14 Intermediate Care beds � although the current plan places these within the Care Home and under the management of the Order of St John. A facility for a Maternity Unit. An X ray unit with digitised imaging capability. A room for Minor Injuries. A Therapies unit (Occupational and Physio) A base for NHS home care staff Outpatient clinics� A Falls specialist and Gerontology clinic Admin, staff and visitor facilities. The form of a Minor Injuries Unit has not yet been agreed.� However most people believe we will find a way through on this one.� The real sticking point has been whether the 14 "hospital" beds will be managed and staffed by the NHS or the Order of St John. The Action Group and the User Group have dug their heels in and demanded the NHS run them and they stay in the hospital. They believe this is the only way the town will accept that the NHS remains committed to continuing to provide a genuine hospital service as in the past.�� Everybody has been piling in to try and square the circle....David Cameron, Barry Norton and Hilary Biles have been twisting the PCT's arm like mad. Our County Councillor Rob Evans has working his County Council contacts and committees like crazy. Liz Leffman has been beavering away as a full-time member of the Action Group. John Grantham, Clive Hill, Eve Coles, Jo Graves and Rob Evans have been holding talks with the local GPs to try and secure� their commitment. The Vicar has done a terrific job keeping the peace. It looks as if its all paid off.


No sooner were the paragraphs above committed to paper when the very unwelcome news arrived that Mike Williams the PCT Chief Executive is leaving his job in July and moving away from the area. He has only been in this new enlarged job a few months. Mike is the man who has pulled the discussions around and has for the first time managed to create a co-operative and honest atmosphere in the dialogue between town and PCT. All that is reported above depends on Mike's ability to deliver on his confidence...there are no promises.....there is no "done deal" yet. We sincerely hope that he will see us through to a final agreement. More than ever we must lay off the Party Politics on the Hospital for the next couple of months.