FUNDING could still stand in the way of Bicester getting its new £5m community hospital, it has emerged.

Although the replacement hospital was given planning approval in September, the final business case and finance have yet to be agreed.

The Strategic Health Authority is expected to look at the proposals on Friday, November 30, and make a final decision.

Funding for the replacement of Townlands Community Hospital, in Henley, has been approved.

But fears the replacement for Bicester’s hospital could still fail have been raised by retired GP Michael Curry, chairman of the project’s community participation group Chef.

He said: “There is still one major hurdle to clear – the final approval of the Strategic Health Authority.

“A major anxiety from the very outset was whether the financial burden of a new hospital could be accommodated in these straitened times. We must hope it can.

“The two key issues are the business case has got to be signed off and the funding, which is a major risk and has been from the word go.

“To approve Townlands and not Bicester would be a terrible mistake.”

NHS Oxfordshire said the project timetable was still on target and getting approval for the final business case was the last hurdle.

A spokesman said the final approval was not a formality.

She said before making a decision the panel would want to be confident of every aspect of the project.

She said: “The process for the approval of the full business case is proceeding through the proper channels for the management of such a project and we have no reason to believe that any major issues will come up.”

If approved the hospital would be funded by a combination of a loan, the sale of the old hospital site for housing and developer funds.

The heath authority has confirmed if the business case is not approved it will not be liable to pay compensation to developer Kajmina.

The firm has previously said it hoped to start construction work on the replacement 12-bed hospital on land behind the current hospital, in Kings End, in January.

If it is approved, the new hospital would open in early 2014, and once complete the old 12-bed Victorian hospital building would be demolished to make way for 14 two and three-bedroom houses.

The new two-storey hospital would include all the current services such as X-ray, therapies and a first aid unit.