POLITICIANS and campaigners have raised concerns over the future of health services in Bicester under sweeping plans to 'transform' the NHS in Oxfordshire.

Phase one of a consultation issued by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to streamline the local NHS has now gone live.

Although it mainly deals with the future of the Horton General Hospital in Banbury, which could lose a number of beds permanently, fears have been raised for the knock-on effects for Bicester Community Hospital on Piggy Lane.

Richard Mould, the leader of Bicester Town Council, said: "While the status of Oxfordshire’s community hospitals will not be consulted upon until phase two of the consultation, we are concerned that the outcomes determined in phase one may impact phase two, and that in turn might have a detrimental effect on healthcare in Bicester."

It comes after months of increasing concern across North Oxfordshire about the delivery of both acute and non-emergency hospital services.

A downgrade of maternity at the Horton could become permanent, with some critical and stroke services moved to Oxford and 200 acute beds closed across Oxfordshire.

Future A&E provision as well as the future of community hospitals will be consulted on in phase two, which is likely to be made public in summer 2017.

Bicester North county councillor Lawrie Stratford said: "BCH provides important outpatient clinics, inpatient rehabilitation and palliative care.

"We have already seen the closure of Wantage Community Hospital. I do not want the same outcome for Bicester.

"We have a brilliant healthcare facility right on our doorstep. This needs to be protected and enhanced."

Bicester Town county councillor Michael Waine added: "We know from speaking to residents that many have already been affected by changes to Horton services.

"Over-reliance on an already stretched John Radcliffe is both unsustainable and unsafe. Patient safety, especially that of expectant mothers and babies, must be the priority."

On Tuesday, February 21 OCCG held a public meeting in Bicester to discuss phase one.

Questions were raised around the capacity of local doctors' surgeries alongside travel times to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

Victoria Prentis, the MP for Banbury, said: "While I am very concerned about the future of the Horton in Banbury, I am also worried about the future of health services in Bicester. We have seen one closure of a well-supported GP surgery and the community hospital is an important service for many of us."

The consultation in Oxfordshire forms part of a sustainability and transformation plan (STP) being drawn up for Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire West.

Drafting the plans, which aim to address staff shortages and save more than £400m by 2020, has been spearheaded by OCCG chief executive David Smith.

OCCG spokesman Richard McCrann said: "We are holding the consultation in two parts as some of the proposals, if agreed, will need implementing quickly to ensure patient safety and deliver effective services.

"We want to encourage patients, the public and organisations to share their views on the proposals and this can be done in a number of ways.

"People can attend one of the consultation events where clinicians and NHS leaders will explain what the proposals mean, answer questions and listen to views.

"People can also respond via an online survey or complete a printed version and post it back to us. All views will be considered before any final decisions are made."

For more information or to view the consultation documents visit tinyurl.com/gkvjntd