In his speech at the Conservative Party Conference, Matt Hancock (Secretary of State for Health) pledged to end the era of blindly closing community hospitals, promising to bring more services closer to the communities they serve.
The Minor Injuries Unit in Wantage Community Hospital was temporarily closed in 2002 and the in-patient facilities were closed temporarily in 2016. Then our physiotherapy services were removed from the hospital in 2017.
Mr Hancock’s promise sounds just what we need. Whatever happens to the actual building, we still need X-ray, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and long and short stay convalescence returned to us, along with the existing maternity. The Community Hospital gave us access to all those, and we would like every bit back.
The next meeting of the Oxfordshire Health Oversight and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) is 29 November and the future of Wantage Hospital is on the agenda.
This committee is responsible for scrutinising the health services in Oxfordshire, but actually providing services is the responsibility of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) and Oxfordshire NHS Health Trust (OHT) is responsible for Wantage Hospital.
HOSC is only considering the inpatient facilities at this meeting. They are being asked to decide if this should be subject to a statutory consultation now (which will take until July next year and could result in the closure of the Hospital) or if a study should be done first to look at what health services we need in OX12.
OHT have agreed that the money is available to replace the pipes in the hospital but won’t commit to doing anything until the needs of the area are confirmed.
We still believe that ALL of these services must be reopened until any decisions are taken but OCCG are not bringing any proposals for resumption of services to the HOSC meeting.
So do we have to wait another year (travelling as far as Chipping Norton or Banbury for physiotherapy, Abingdon or Witney for minor injuries, or Abingdon, Didcot or Wallingford for a Community Hospital) before the OCCG and the County Council decide if and when services return to our area of Oxfordshire?
Or can we speed up the process?
Unfortunately the Council Elections next May do create a long moratorium when no decisions or consultations can take place, so we may have to continue to travel.
Why does health service decision making take so long?