TOWN councillors have demanded that a report saying their community hospital beds do not need to be reopened should itself be scrapped as not fit for purpose.

Wantage Town Council issued the request to Oxfordshire's official Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee ahead of a crucial meeting on the report tomorrow.

The report, commissioned by the Oxfordshire Health and Wellbeing Board, looked at the potential need for reopening the 12 in-patient beds at Wantage Community Hospital which were 'temporarily' closed in 2016.

The authors have now concluded, in a report published last month, that there is 'not a compelling case' for reopening the beds.

The report also reveals that Oxfordshire Clinical Commission Group – the board which holds the NHS purse strings for the county – is due to make a final decision on the closed beds on September 24, and lays out a timetable for the final work to be done before that decision.

The whole report is due to go before the Health Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) in a public meeting tomorrow at County Hall in Oxford, where members will be asked if they are happy with it.

However, ahead of that meeting, Wantage Town Council has written a strongly-worded letter to the chairman of the HOSC, county councillor Arash Fatemian, urging his committee to side with the town council in trying to save the beds from permanent closure.

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Town councillors wrote: "You will see that the town council regards the project process as not being suitable for purpose and has requested that the report be withdrawn.

"This request was supported by Grove Parish Council.

"It is disappointing that this report is being presented to your committee."

The 12 in-patient beds at Wantage Community Hospital were shut 'temporarily' in summer of 2016 over fears of a possible legionella bacteria outbreak in the outdated hot water system.

Oxford Health, the trust which owns Oxfordshire's community hospitals, initially planned to shut the entire hospital, but after an uproar from residents decided just to temporarily shut the in-patient ward.

Since then, thousands of residents of Wantage and Grove have campaigned to get the beds reopened, but Oxford Health has said it wanted to wait until the results of official reports into the future of healthcare.

The new OX12 report, looking at demand for community hospital beds in the OX12 postcode area – which covers Wantage and Grove – was commissioned last year by the Oxfordshire Health and Wellbeing Board.

This is a partnership between local government, the NHS and residents set up 'to ensure [those organisations] work together to improve everyone’s health and wellbeing'.

The so-called OX12 Project team concluded that, over the 2018/19 year, a total of 87 people from the OX12 postcode area needed to use a bed at a community hospital.

The authors worked out that this need could have been met by having just six community hospital beds in any given 12-month period.

They also pointed out that all of those patients were cared for at the community hospitals in Abingdon, Wallingford and Didcot.

Based on these findings, they concluded there was 'not a compelling case' for reopening the beds.

Wantage Town Council has argued that the report did not account for seasonal fluctuations or growth in needs.

Councillors also expressed severe doubts about whether Oxordshire Clinical Commission Group could adequately assess the needs of the hospital.

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They added: "This level of superficial statistical analysis is not the basis on which important decisions about future health service provision should be made.

"The community hospital does not just serve patients from OX12, it serves a wider area.

"The OX12 Project Report appears to ignore this.

"In order to properly assess requirements there is a need for an Oxfordshire-wide community hospital strategy to bring into account information and statistics regarding other community hospitals in Oxfordshire and bed blocking at the John Radcliffe Hospital."

Finally, the town councillors also argued that the concerns over legionella bacteria were unfounded, therefore, they requested the temporarily closed beds be reopened immediately.

Wantage Community Hospital currently provides a Midwifery-Led Unit, children’s services, speech and language therapy services and a musculoskeletal (MSK) service.

The OX12 findings follow a shift in national policy towards providing healthcare outside of hospital grounds.

In September, the independent charitable organisation The King's Fund revealed that the nation has seen a drastic reduction in the number of hospital beds, from around 300,000 in 1987 to less than 150,000 in 2019.

Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth pledged that the HOSC committee would take all representations into consideration before reaching a decision – including the letter from Wantage Town Council.

Tomorrow's meeting at County Hall starts at 10am and members of public are welcome to attend.