CAMPAIGNERS fear the temporary closure of Oxford’s community hospital could become permanent if more is not done now to recruit nurses.

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust shut the 12-bed ward in the Churchill Hospital’s Fulbrook Centre in May on safety grounds, due to staff shortages.

Four patients were transferred home, the remainder split between hospitals in Abingdon and Witney where more beds have been opened.

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The trust has said it expects the hospital to be closed until at least next month, when the situation is set to be reviewed.

But Liz Peretz, speaking on behalf of Keep Our NHS Public Oxfordshire (KONP), said the group was worried actions were not being taken quickly enough to ensure the closure is as short as possible, as well as minimise the impact on patients.

She added: “We do have sympathy with the trust on staff shortages, they are affecting everywhere and Oxford especially due to the high cost of living.

“There are always ways around this though, a possibility is moving nurses from the other community hospitals run by the trust.”

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Oxford Health, which also runs the county’s mental health services, manages eight community hospitals across the county at Wantage, Witney, Didcot, Henley, Wallingford, Bicester Abingdon and Oxford.

The future of Wantage Community Hospital, which is also run by Oxford Health, has been in limbo since it was ‘temporarily’ closed three years ago.

Oxford Mail:

Oxford's Churchill Hospital where the Fulbrook Centre is based. Picture: Ed Nix

Ms Peretz said KONP feared a similar fate awaited Oxford’s City Community Hospital, explaining: “Not having a community hospital in Oxford is not an option long term, it leaves a real hole in the city’s care provision.

“People can’t be expected to travel from Blackbird Leys to Witney, for example, to visit a relative. The goal of a community hospital is to get the patient, who is often elderly, back home as soon as they are ready, and maintaining those family links is really important for that.”

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In May, Oxfordshire County Council’s Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) passed a vote of no confidence in Oxford Health chiefs over the trust’s handling of the situation.

The trust was condemned for a‘lack of respect’ over communication with the committee.

Despite fears of closure first arising last summer, Oxford Health did not notify the committee of its decision until after a board meeting on May 8.

Read what Oxford Health said when the closure was announced

When the closure was announced the trust said around half of posts had been vacant since 2016.

It added it would 'vigorously recruit' but that its previous 'strenuous efforts' have not paid off.

Oxford Health were contacted for comment but only responded to say they would be reporting to HOSC next month and sent their original statement from May which they said was 'still correct'.