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Column 12th February 2020

Wantage Hospital - would it not just be easier to keep it?

As you will see from other pages in the Herald this week and last week, we are still fighting to get Wantage Community Hospital in-patient beds re-opened.

In January 2016, legionella bacteria was found in the water system at the hospital and the system was flushed out. At the time, babies were still born there and the in-patient beds remained occupied.

Since that time the pipes have been flushed regularly but in July 2016, the Oxford NHS Health Foundation Trust used the January incident as an excuse to close the in-patient beds on health and safety grounds.

In September 2018 (more than two years after the temporary closure and shortly after over 1000 people had demonstrated in Wantage Town centre about the lack of local rehabilitation facilities), the Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) asked Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) to bring proposals for resumption for services.

In November 2018 OCCG launched a project to look at the health and care needs of the Wantage and Grove area (covered by the OX12 postcode) to help determine what services are needed locally.

As you have seen from the front page of the Herald last week the final report states that there is 'not a compelling case' for reopening the in-patient rehabilitation facility.

Yet they admit that the report is not sufficiently detailed to make a decision about the future of the beds and propose a new consultation process to take the final decision later this year.

The Oxford Mail last week reported that Oxfordshire is the second-worst county in England for bed blocking, largely because there are not enough social care staff available to care for them at home.

This is connected with the Community Hospital because the NHS is moving away from rehabilitation in community hospitals to “care in the community” where rehabilitation services are provided at home.

What we see in practice is people being released from an acute hospital and isolated in their own home with perhaps a carer or therapist attending for a few minutes each day.

We believe that this is not enough and want our in-patient rehabilitation services back to provide a secure step between an acute hospital bed and living independently again at home.

We believe that it might be easier to recruit staff for a rewarding job in a community hospital than for a frustrating role driving between patients with no time to provide the level of care required.


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