AN ALREADY ‘crumbling’ health system will not be able to cope with rapid population growth in southern Oxfordshire, councillors have warned.

Residents will face ever-longer waiting times and have to travel further to see their GP if new developments go ahead without investment in healthcare, Didcot councillor Cathy Augustine said this week.

Ms Augustine, who put a motion on the issue to Didcot Town Council's meeting on Monday, said healthcare was now one of the main concerns being raised by residents who already wait as long as six weeks to see a GP.

Children’s mental health services are also increasingly in demand, she said, yet parents have to wait as long as six months for appointments.

Her motion on Monday called for ‘vast improvements’ in acute and chronic care and said more hospitals, doctors and nurses, GP and dental surgeries were needed now.

The council will now write to South Oxfordshire and Vale of White Horse District Councils as well as Oxfordshire County Council’s public health team, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, asking for an ‘urgent explanation’ from each on how they plan to meet the needs of the growing population.

Ms Augustine, who said healthcare professionals had backed her calls, said: “We are all aware that there are tectonic plates shifting under our NHS at a national level and this is having local consequences which is intensified by the growing needs of our expanding population.

“We need local practices, rather than large hubs, and local contact that is readily-available and easy to access.

“We as a town council don’t make decisions on healthcare provision but we can act on behalf of our constituents to put pressure on the people who make those decisions.”

Didcot is set to see huge population growth by 2030 with 15,000 new homes planned as part of the Government's 'garden town' initiative.

That growth was identified by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group as ‘the central challenge’ facing the South West region, which includes Abingdon, Faringdon, Wantage, in a recently published ‘locality plan’.

This found that five per cent more people had registered at a GP practice in that region the three years to April 2017, with a 10 per cent rise in Didcot.

The CCG said health centres in Wantage and Faringdon were due to be extended, and yet in Wantage, where 5,000 homes are due to be built by 2030, when GPs at the already over-subscribed Wantage Health Centre asked NHS England for £4m to expand in 2016 their bid was turned down.

Wantage MP Ed Vaizey recently said he was 'frustrated' that the Wantage GPs had not asked their landlord Assura for help with funding, though it is not clear how much help the company would be willing to give and what terms it would demand.

In Wallingford, where permission has been granted for more than 1,000 homes in the past decade, the town medical practice has a ratio of 1,240 patients to each full-time-equivalent doctor.

In Abingdon, GPs are given less than £100 per patient compared to the national average of £146, thanks to a funding formula that takes money from affluent areas and gives it to those with higher levels of deprivation.

The CCG also said construction of a new GP practice serving 20,000 patients in Didcot’s Great Western Park development 'could' begin in the next three years.

Councillor Denise Macdonald, who seconded Monday’s motion, said residents in Great Western Park were already facing ‘great difficulties’ to get to their nearest GP surgery.

She added: "The nearest one is at Woodlands Medical Centre, it’s a heck of a walk if you’ve got a toddler in a pushchair and don’t drive.

"That is if you can actually get an appointment.

"Health care provision has to be agreed and planned now before houses are built, not several years away when a random target number of houses are completed."