ALL four of Oxfordshire’s community hospital kitchens have been closed and 15 staff made redundant despite opposition from hundreds of people.

Oxford Health NHS trust closed the kitchens at Wantage, Didcot, Wallingford and Witney hospitals over the summer to save an estimated £300,000 a year.

Fresh-cooked food has been replaced by cook-chill meals brought in by the lorry load.

The trust never said how many staff posts were at risk from the changes, but said it was “working to redeploy staff to other posts within the trust”.

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A total of 474 people signed a petition against the move, including celebrity chef Raymond Blanc, but the trust never ran a public consultation on it.

The Campaign for Better Hospital Food and several Oxfordshire councillors fought the closures, saying patients preferred freshly made food and it was better for them.

One of those, Faringdon town councillor Alex Meredith, warned that the trust could still end up having to reverse the decision depending on government policy.

The Lib Dem said: “We still believe fresh food is the best way to make people better and give them a good experience in hospital.

“And because of the way the government is supporting healthy eating, there is a chance this sort of decision might be reconsidered in future and hospitals would have to reopen their kitchens, which would be a very costly process, but we have got to keep asking them to do that.”

He added: “These community hospitals are so small, patients got to know the cooks and knew what was going on the menu each week.

“When I was talking to people they got really excited about it, and part of a hospital’s care should be keeping people’s spirits up, but that has been lost.”

Oxford Health said that in a survey in August, 77 per cent of patients rated their cook-chill meals “good or excellent”. But Oxfordshire County Councillor for Wantage Jenny Hannaby, who is also chairman of the Wantage Community Hospital League of Friends, challenged that.

She said: “I know patients loved our cook's food, and those who have had the new food miss hers.”

She and Mr Meredith thanked everyone who backed the campaign against the closures and said they would continue to advocate for fresh food at hospitals.

In a statement, trust spokeswoman Rhianne Pope said: “Cook-chill food has now been implemented in all of our community hospitals, in line with the rest of the trust.

“Throughout this process, we have worked hard to reduce the number of potential redundancies by supporting redeployment to other roles within the trust.”

Are you a member of staff affected? Contact Pete Hughes on 01865 425431.