RESIDENTS who have battled to save their town hospital from closure are celebrating after the news that a cut service will be reinstated.

However, they have also warned that the fight to keep Wantage Community Hospital open must go on, with health chiefs still considering the long-term plan for the area.

People in and around Wantage needing NHS physiotherapy have had to travel to other parts of Oxfordshire since the contract was handed to private firm Healthshare in 2017.

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This week though, it appears an agreement has been struck between Oxford Health, which runs the hospital, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – which controls the NHS purse strings in the county – and Healthshare, to get service reinstated locally for patients in Wantage and Grove.

County and district councillor Jenny Hannaby who fought to get physio services back to the hospital said: “At this moment in time, for Wantage and all those patients who have been emailing to say how difficult it’s been to make their way to Banbury, Bicester or Oxford for their appointments, it is great news.”

The loss of physio at Wantage was seen as another nail in the coffin for the hospital which saw its inpatient beds closed in 2016 because, it was said, of the risk of a Legionella outbreak.

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The CCG is currently running a pilot consultation in Wantage and Grove to determine future health needs, which in large part will ultimately decide the fate of the hospital.

While welcoming the news, Julie Mabberley of the Wantage and Grove Campaign Group said: “The future of the hospital is still just as uncertain.

“Reinstating physio suggests they are listening for once, but that’s as far as it goes.

“Let’s see it happen and that will be another step in the right direction but it’s not a long-term arrangement.”

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Healthshare has faced heavy criticism over the service since taking over, with patients complaining of long waits and poor communication, while a recent report highlighted a number of failings by the CCG as the contract was put out to tender.

Health chiefs have so far failed to give a date, though chief operating officer at the CCG, Diane Hedges, said they were working with Healthshare to get the service up and running ‘as soon as possible’.

Director of Healthshare Neil Cook, said he was pleased space at the hospital could now be provided.

He added: “It was always our desire to be able to see patients in Wantage hospital and we have worked hard to get to this point.”