CAMPAIGNERS fighting to re-open the Wantage Community Hospital have slammed county health chiefs after it was revealed a final decision on the facility may not be made until the end of next year.

The hospital’s last inpatient beds were ‘temporarily’ closed down in July 2016 with Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust because of the risk of a Legionella outbreak.

More than two years later, and despite being ordered by a public committee to speed up the process, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) and Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust (which runs the hospital) say they will not consider re-opening the hospital until a public engagement process has been completed.

This could take until the end of next year according to the CCG’s timeframe.

The news was delivered during an acrimonious meeting of the Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), which is there to hold the county’s health bosses to account.

Speaking after the meeting, district councillor for Wantage and Grove, Jenny Hannaby, said the latest proposals had eroded the trust between campaigners and the CCG.

She said: “The trust has completely gone as far as I’m concerned.

“We want our hospital restored, we want the beds back and we want our minor injuries unit back.

“I believe they are just not listening to anyone, they have their own plan going forward and I think we have a big battle on our hands to get our voices heard.

“The CCG is just not listening to the HOSC, not listening to the people. They have their own agenda and will stick to it.”

Prior to the bed closures in 2016, Wantage residents had seen the minor injuries unit closed, and last year physiotherapy services were relocated.

In September the HOSC ordered the CCG to either re-open the hospital beds or arrange a formal consultation on its future, while also telling Oxford Health to release funding to replace the plumbing system in order to permanently resolve the Legionella issue - none of which has materialised.

However, speaking at the latest HOSC meeting in Didcot on Thursday, CCG chief executive Louise Patten defended the timeframe.

She said: "I understand residents are concerned about the future of the hospital - not just the beds - but this approach does allow us to identify local needs and potentially look at putting other services into the hospital."

HOSC chairman Arash Fatemian told the CCG: "Your overall approach to health and care needs in Wantage is a good one - it's just way, way, way too long."

Further recommendations will again be put to the CCG to speed up the process.

In August more than 1,000 people marched through Wantage calling for the hospital beds to re-opened.

Julie Mabberley of the Save Wantage Hospital Campaign, said: “It was a very frustrating meeting, there was nothing new.

“We agree with the chairman that the timescales for moving forward are much too long.

“Our hospital has been temporarily closed to inpatients for more than two years and physiotherapy has been removed, as well as the temporary closure of minor injuries and removal of X-ray facilities in 2002.

“Another year of discussion won’t give us any health facilities back – we want our hospital back and we want it now.”