EVIDENCE is needed to back up claims that Wantage hospital beds should remain closed, according to health campaigners.

Twelve in-patient beds at the community hospital were closed in 2016 after a legionella scare in the building, but last month it was announced the beds would not reopen despite repairs.

Those beds had largely been used as a halfway house for patients returning home from emergency care.

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At a meeting of Oxfordshire’s Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting on Thursday, campaigners asked the hospital's owner, Oxford Health Foundation Trust, to weigh up the ‘pros and cons’ of shutting the beds before a permanent decision was made.

The trust plans to replace the beds with a move towards more care within people’s own homes as part of what is called the OX12 project.

This could include more health professionals visiting patients to help them recover from injuries, a service known as 'reablement', as opposed to helping them recover in the hospital.

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A report to the committee said: “There is a substantial and growing body of evidence that shows the benefits of an active, ‘strengths-based’ home reablement approach for older people who have experienced an acute episode of illness requiring hospital admission, particularly for those who are living with frailty.”

But there were concerns about the move from Julie Mabberley, the chairwoman of the OX12 stakeholder reference group.

Ms Mabberley said: “Much of the purported evidence for the lack of need of inpatient beds depends on the provision for home enablement, but no mention is made of the staff shortage in homecare services.”

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Jane Hanna

Jane Hanna, a Lib Dem councillor for Grove and Wantage, also called for more thought to be given to a decision on the beds.

She added there was ‘comparative data’ which showed countries which had more hospital beds had been able to save more lives during the Covid pandemic.

A group of councillors has scrutinised the evidence gathering process which justifies the closure of the beds called for the pros and cons of the home visits to be weighed up against those of in-patient beds more fully.

The councillors, Ms Hanna among them, also called for scrutiny of Oxfordshire-wide plans to overhaul community care.