This article originally appeared in the Herald Newspaper on 13th February 2019.
I’VE no doubt that, like me, many of you were shocked and surprised to see an article in the February 6 edition of the Herald titled ‘Oxfordshire physiotherapy private contract fiasco exposed in full.’
To recap, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) put the contract for physiotherapy out to tender in 2017.
Both Oxford Health (OH) and Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) (who had been providing the services up until that point) put in bids to continue providing the service.
However, the CCG gave a five-year contract to private provider Healthshare. Oxford Health, which owns the Wantage Hospital site, then refused Healthshare’s request to operate there, resulting in the closure of physio services in Wantage.
This confusing scenario led to the county council’s Health Overview & Scrutiny committee (HOSC) launching an investigation. The HOSC found that during the tender process the CCG had dramatically underestimated the number of patients needing physio in the area. The CCG in turn suggested that OH and OUH had misrepresented their figures during the tender process!
This sort of confusion and lack of joined-up thinking in the management of healthcare in Oxfordshire is sadly commonplace. I have been trying for some time to lead efforts to coordinate between the different providers, hosting roundtable meetings and leading discussions on how to move forward in providing the correct services that residents require.
A fortnight ago I met with Louise Patten, chief executive of the CCG, and pushed hard for the return of physio to Wantage. I’m glad to see that my efforts and the efforts of local councillors have paid off: last week the CCG announced that physio services will be returning to Wantage hospital in the very near future.
This is certainly good news, but the struggle to secure the excellent healthcare that residents deserve is far from over. Whilst physio may be returning there the future for Wantage hospital remains unclear. The Newbury Street and Church Street GP practices are struggling to keep up with ever growing demand as the population increases. There are plans to redevelop Wantage Health Centre to allow for the GPs expansion, but these seem to have stalled of late.
Therefore I’ll continue to lobby hard locally and in Parliament for better healthcare in Wantage. I am meeting Ministers in the Department of Health and Social care in a fortnight to discuss these important issues and will continue to engage locally as well.