CAMPAIGNERS fear plans to move Chipping Norton's first aid unit could be the 'thin end of the wedge' and threaten the future of the town's community hospital.

Run by South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS), the unit has been located within the Chipping Norton Community Hospital in Russell Way since 2011.

SCAS spokesman David Gallagher confirmed there were plans to move the unit, which offers services people might otherwise go to A&E for, such as minor injuries and burns, 'across the car park' to the Chipping Norton Health Centre.

ALSO READ: Oxford community hospital will reopen - but future in doubt

He added: "There will be no changes to its opening hours and the move allows us to work more efficiently with local GPs."

But members of Chipping Norton Hospital League of Friends say this would represent a 'further erosion of the hospital-based services' in the town and in the longer term could jeopardise the existence of the community hospital altogether.

Oxford Mail:

First Aid Unit staff celebrating treating its 10,000th patient in 2017

John Grantham, former town and district councillor who has been a campaigner for the hospital for years, explained: “This could just be the thin end of the wedge because as overheads get spread across fewer services it will be argued the hospital has become uneconomic.”

Fellow campaigner Clive Hill said NHS beds had already been lost at the community hospital in 2015 and physiotherapy had also moved out of the hospital and into the GP surgery building.

He said: "If the First Aid Unit (FAU) goes as well there will not be much left.

"The SCAS paramedics do not have a greater fan than me they do an absolutely wonderful job.

ALSO READ: MP says proposal for maternity services 'disappointing'

"The FAU is the best thing to happen to Chipping Norton and district healthcare in a very long time.

"Our concerns are that in moving to the GP’s surgery we do not want the First Aid Unit to get swamped in general surgery issues."

He added: "While we will not stand in the way of genuine healthcare improvements we do not wish to see our community hospital stripped of its key services."

From Monday a new Urgent Care Hub is set to replace a current walk-in clinic at the health centre.

A note on the health centre's website explained the appointment-only hub was 'to offer more routine GP appointments, and also avoid the long wait time for patients to see a clinician during the walk in clinic'.

Oxford Mail:

Chipping Norton Health Centre

Mr Gallagher refuted the idea the first aid unit would be 'swamped', however, explaining: "Many patients we see at the FAU are already those that would see a GP (or practice nurse) if a local GP surgery was open; the fact there isn’t one open and they come to see us is a good thing.

"We see a real mixture of people who have general health concerns, as well as those who’ve had an accident and need, e.g. a wound closed.

"Plus if you go on to the Chipping Norton Health Centre website in the opening hours section, it already suggests patients needing help when the surgery is closed should call NHS 111 or visit the First Aid Unit – and we’ve certainly not been ‘swamped’ up to this point so that really shouldn’t be a concern either."

He added: "We know that the FAU is a highly valued service locally, our specialist practitioners who deliver the service to patients really enjoy doing so and in our experience local people who come in to see us at the FAU are exactly the type of patients we want to see there."

ALSO READ: Thieves target cars parked at hospital

The CCG said NHS England guidance said urgent access services needed to be part of primary or community care services and this included FAUs.

A statement from the CCG added: “Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is discussing the possibility of moving the Chipping Norton First Aid Unit with the Hospital’s League of Friends; this has already been discussed at a public meeting of the North Oxfordshire Locality Patient and Public Forum and we are holding another public meeting later in the month."

It added: “We are proposing relocating the much valued walk-in service to the Chipping Norton Health Centre next door; the service will remain the same but we expect to see some enhancements such as the ability for FAU staff to access diagnostics available at the GP practice and to have clinical support from the GPs when required.”

A date and location for the public meeting about the first aid unit's move is still be confirmed.