A CHALLENGE to re-open Wantage Hospital’s beds by autumn has been made, after a meeting where health bosses were grilled about their closure.

The 12 in-patient beds at the hospital were closed in 2016 after a legionella scare in the building.

The community hospital was used to help people bridge the gap between emergency or acute care at the John Radcliffe, and returning home.

At a meeting of Oxfordshire County Council’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Wednesday, chairman Arash Fatemian asked the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group to re-open the beds by September if the CCG could not finish work into the medical needs of the OX12 post code by then.

This date was given because a CCG board meeting is likely to take place that month.

ALSO READ: Man repeatedly 'stabbed sofa' after downing bottle of rum

Mr Fatemian said: “If we get to the end of a consultation process and it turns out you need more information... I think it is only fair to re-open the beds. Somewhere we have to draw a line. It has gone on far too long by any stretch of the imagination to be considered temporary.”

Louise Patten, chief executive of the OCCG said: “I will make sure if we are not ready as described that the board will consider that.”

Members of the public also spoke at the meeting in support of re-opening the beds.

Maggie Swain, a member of the Save Wantage Hospital campaign said the community was responsible for building and managing Wantage's hospital, and they were disappointed services had been lost there over the years.

Speaking after the meeting, she said: "We can work together to optimise that hospital so it could be used fully."

Oxford Mail:

Arash Fatemian. Picture: Damian Halliwell.

Health chief Ms Patten said the CCG was trying to draw a distinction between what services were needed in the OX12 area and the amount of beds at the hospital.

The OX12 Project worked out the need in the postcode area could be met by having just six community hospital beds in any given 12-month period.

Wantage resident and member of the hospital stakeholder group Julie Mabberley contested the report by the CCG outlining reasons for keeping the hospital beds out of use.

She described the report as providing 'data but no analysis'.

She added: "Why can't we get 18 people out of the JR and into Wantage Hospital for rehabilitation? They would be nearer to relatives and get better quicker."

Her thoughts were echoed by committee member Laura Price, who criticised the CCG for saying no need for the extra beds had been identified.

The Labour councillor said the study had been conducted after the beds were closed and people from the Wantage area were already travelling outside of their postcode for healthcare.

The councillors also discussed whether a project similar to the OX12 study needed to be carried out across the county, to take account of all healthcare services in outlying areas.

READ AGAIN: New Wantage hospital report should be scrapped, says town council

Mr Fatemian's challenge was added to a list of 14 recommendations made to the CCG, an organisation responsible for planning and signing off which organisations provide healthcare works in Oxfordshire.

They included asking the health body to be more transparent about future business, and a group of councillors continuing to act as a watchdog on the OX12 project.

Though the HOSC can made recommendations to the CCG, it does not mean the health authority has to take them on board.

Wantage Hospital is currently used for maternity care through a midwifery-led unit, as well as physiotherapy, but the closure of the 12 beds has meant its former use for community care has stopped.

A pot of money is ringfenced to replace the plumbing system in Wantage Community Hospital, to make legionella occurrences less likely, but this has not been spent since it was set aside in 2016.