A NEW emergency unit in Witney that means patients can be treated closer to home has been praised.

West Oxfordshire District Council’s health chief Mark Booty described it as “vital” to the town during a recent visit.

He said: “It is fantastic to see this unit up and running in Witney. In a rural district like ours, which has an increasing ageing population, this will provide a vital service.

“It is invaluable for patients to be treated closer to home and families, with the benefit of relieving pressure at our closest acute treatment hospital. It is a win, win situation for all involved.”

The unit at Witney Community Hospital is run by Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and provides 24/7 care at the hospital in Welch Way. It includes an assessment centre with five beds, physiotherapy room and isolation room.

Patients are referred to the unit by GPs or health professionals. Staff can treat many conditions, except for heart attacks, strokes and those requiring operations.

An ambulance is also available to transfer patients needing emergency treatment to the hospital.

Since it opened last month, about 130 patients have been treated at the unit. It is the second unit in Oxfordshire after one opened at Abingdon and was funded as part of £18m of spending in the county by the Department of Health and National Institute for Health research.