EXPECTANT mothers can now give birth in Wantage again after a maternity ward that was shut for a lengthy refurbishment finally reopened.

The unit, run by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, was closed to births in March.

Councillor Jenny Hannaby, who has been at the forefront of the campaign to improve the facilities, said: “The unit looked liked a set from the BBC show Call The Midwife.

“It had this 1950s appearance, but now it looks bright, shiny and new.”

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The ward was refurbished with new flooring, blinds and kitchen facility for the staff, including a number of electric appliances, and all walls were repainted.

The funds were collected by Wantage Hospital League of Friends chairman Ms Hannaby, with many other community groups contributing to the efforts.

The councillor said: “When the plea went out in the beginning of the year that the midwives wanted to refurbish the hospital, we were there.

“We were delighted to help them out in refurbishing what was an extremely drab unit.”

However, Ms Hannaby also pointed out there was still another ‘battle to fight’.

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She was referring to the 12 in-patient beds at the Wantage Community Hospital, which shut in 2016 over fears of a possible legionella bacteria outbreak in the outdated hot water system.

Meanwhile other services at the hospital were allowed to continue.

Repairs were completed in September, but Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, still does not have a date for reopening the unit.

At the time, Dr Nick Broughton, the new chief executive of the trust, said he and the trust ‘sincerely apologised’ for repeated delays in repair work but though they had now been completed it was still not planning to reopen the beds.

He added: “We believe reopening the general in-patient ward at Wantage would not currently be a sustainable plan or indeed the best way to use the limited NHS resources available.”

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However, Ms Hannaby argued that Dr Broughton had ‘no businesses making that kind of s statement’ as a decision on the reopening would have to be made after a consultation period.

The team at the maternity centre, who come from across the Vale of White Horse, are now working closely with the one in Abingdon, where there are not enough spaces for all expectant mothers.

Ali Cuthbertson, who is head of midwifery at the trust, said: “Women were always able to receive antenatal and postnatal care at the unit during the closure, but they can now give birth there again.

“Reopening the unit also allows continuity of care for women and families here.”

Supporters Simon Powis Kitchens, Oxford City Flooring and Reeds of Wantage were praised for their work.