THE number of beds at Didcot Community Hospital are to be halved in a move described as “dreadful” by a town leader.

Health bosses are to axe eight extra beds brought in last November to deal with demand over the winter. A further four will be closed temporarily over a lack of doctor cover, they said.

The moves – to take effect from Tuesday – will reduce total beds at the Wantage Road hospital from 24 to 12.

The hospital has one ward, plus dental, physiotherapy and podiatry services.

Didcot Town Council leader Margaret Davies said: “Didcot deserves better than this.

“Our access to medical facilities is totally inadequate. We are hoping for them to be improved in the very near future, not reduced.

“We have a high percentage of elderly in deprived areas and to cut their access to this care is dreadful.”

Patient Voice chairman Jacquie Pearce-Gervis said it would hit efforts to tackle bed-blocking problems.

The hospital and similar sites take patients from major hospitals such as Oxford’s John Radcliffe, to stop beds there being “blocked”.

Ms Pearce-Gervis said: “It is very worrying, especially at this time when bed-blocking is so poor.

“That means 12 extra people won’t be able to leave other hospitals to move closer to their local hospital.”

Alistair Duncan, spokesman for Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Didcot hospital, said: “We are temporarily closing four beds, from 16 to 12, as we have insufficient medical cover to have 16 open safely.

“Local GPs who provide medical cover at Didcot hospital are managing increasingly complex patients within the community. They cannot safely commit to managing more than 12 patients currently.”

The winter beds were only planned to last to April, said Mr Duncan, who could not estimate when they would re-open.