Wantage Hospital is becoming a regular subject for this column, but last week was an important week as the meeting of the Oxfordshire Health Oversight and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) was taking place and we had asked for the hospital to be included on the agenda.
As you can see by the name, this committee is responsible for scrutinising the health services in Oxfordshire. Actually providing services is the responsibility of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG). However, Oxfordshire NHS Health Trust (OHT) is responsible for Wantage Hospital.
The Minor Injuries Unit in Wantage Community Hospital was temporarily closed in 2002 and in 2016 the in-patient facilities in the hospital were closed temporarily because of a threat of legionella bacterium in the water pipes. Then our physiotherapy services were removed from the hospital in 2017.
We explained to HOSC that all changes of services should be subject to a statutory consultation and that has not taken place for the removal of any of these services and that until such a statutory consultation has taken place ALL of these services must be reopened.
When writing about the temporary closure of consultant-led maternity services at the Horton Hospital in Banbury earlier this year, the Secretary of State for Health stated that a closure of nearly 2 years exceeded what can be considered a temporary closure.
Members of the committee supported our cause and asked that the hospital be reopened as soon as possible.
The OCCG said that they preferred to begin a new consultation exercise to examine what the residents of Oxfordshire (and in particular the people of the Wantage area) need so that they can ensure that the NHS money is spent effectively.
One member of HOSC pointed out that they have been promised consultations on the use of Wantage hospital regularly since the closure and nothing had materialised yet.
After some discussion, HOSC proposed that OHT replace the pipes in the hospital before next April.
They also asked OCCG to bring proposals for resumption for some services, or for a public consultation on what services should be provided in the Wantage and Grove area to the next HOSC meeting on 29th November.
So, I could say some progress is good news or I could say temporary closures of more than 6 months are unacceptable and we need to ask the Secretary of State to require our hospital to reopen now.
I guess we need to go to the meeting in November and try again.