HEALTH bosses have been ordered to either re-open a community hospital or hold a formal consultation on its future - more than two years after it closed.

Wantage Community Hospital remains in a state of limbo after the ‘temporary’ closure of in patient services July 2016 following an outbreak of Legionella.

A government-backed review into the closure subsequently stated, however, that anything more than six months should not be labelled ‘temporary’.

Yesterday members of the Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) told the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust (which runs the hospital) that bosses must develop ‘concrete plans’ for the future of the hospital by November.

HOSC members also ordered Oxford Health to release funding set aside since 2016 to replace the plumbing system - something which the trust said it is reluctant to do until the future use of the building has been determined.

Health campaigners reacted with an air of cynicism to the latest developments claiming that, even if a consultation is held, it could be many months before services return to the hospital, if at all.

Julie Mabberley, of the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group said: “There is now more support from councillors than I’ve seen in the past and I’m pleased by that, but in actual actions, I don’t think we have achieved much.”

She added: “Re-opening the beds is a possibility, but it is a very small possibility.”

The strength of feeling in the town and surrounding area against the closure was demonstrated in August when more than 1,000 supporters marched through the streets of Wantage in protest.

Speaking at the meeting, CCG chief executive Louise Patten said she recognised the frustration of residents but said a new framework seeking to identify local health and care needs would allow health chiefs to see which services would be suitable to re-introduce at the suitable.

A CCG spokesman said: “OCCG recognises the importance of the Wantage Community Hospital to local people and their frustrations about its future, and we will look carefully at the request of the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

“The discussion at the HOSC meeting today was positive and we described an approach for planning services for each locality in Oxfordshire, including the South West where Wantage Hospital is located.

"This would be done through engaging local communities and would be based on evidence of health and care needs.”