Last week I spoke in Parliament alongside my fellow Oxfordshire MPs about the future of healthcare in the county. Specifically, I focused on the impacts on our local community of the delayed consultation by the county’s clinical commissioning group.
Wantage Hospital is currently in a state of limbo – Oxford Health announced in April 2016 that they would be closing the hospital due to concerns over legionella in the old pipe system. This decision is subject to a consultation by Oxfordshire CCG, a consultation which was previously promised in October 2016. However, the CCG decided to split the consultation into two phases, with the first covering acute hospitals and the second covering community hospitals.
Phase one of the consultation did not take place until January 2017, three months after the full consultation was promised. As Wantage is a community hospital it is not covered by this phase. Phase 2 of the consultation has yet to take place, and no date has been announced for when it will begin. This leaves the hospital effectively closed with no end in sight.
After an online petition was signed by almost 4,000 people it was agreed to keep the hospital’s physiotherapy and maternity services open. However, Oxfordshire CCG re-tendered the hospital’s physiotherapy services and the contract passed to HealthShare. The company has since had to close all physiotherapy services provided in Wantage - after stating it was not offered the opportunity to continue them in Wantage – leaving the hospital with just limited maternity care.
This is compounded by the problems facing local GP services in our constituency. Planned expansions of Wantage Health Centre and White Horse Medical Centre in Faringdon have paused indefinitely due to a lack of funding from the Department of Health. This is very disheartening, especially as the sums of capital required are relatively small and the difference that it would be made to our communities would be great. Whilst both projects have their own unique challenges, there has been little imaginative thinking from the CCG in resolving these problems.
Whilst we all recognise the pressures on local health authorities, it is clear that the entire consultation process by Oxfordshire CCG has been completely unacceptable. By the time we get to the phase 2 consultation which might decide Wantage Hospital’s future, it will have been effectively closed for 2 years. This is an entirely unacceptable position.
With a rapidly growing and ageing population, pressure on our health services will continue to rise and the problems need to be urgently addressed. We must have an open and transparent conversation about the services needed in our towns and communities and this should include full public and stakeholder engagement at every stage.