We have listened to local concerns about the planned closure of Wantage Community Hospital and offered Wantage Town Council a compromise option.
We have offered to continue running services where there is the least Legionella risk to patients, the Oxford University Hospitals midwifery-led unit and our physiotherapy service, until the conclusion of the major public consultation into bed-based and ambulatory care which begins in the autumn.
The trust has offered to continue with the short term solution for managing the existing risk of Legionella bacteria in the hospital’s old, corroded plumbing system with the understanding these services may need to cease at short notice if Legionella, or works to address it, necessitate an emergency shutdown.
It remains necessary to close the 12 bed in-patient service to protect those people more exposed to Legionella risk and who are typically the most vulnerable in the event of an outbreak. The inpatient service must be closed since it would be impossible to relocate these patients quickly if an emergency shutdown is required.
Our immediate aim is to protect patients at Wantage Community Hospital from the risk posed by Legionella in the pipes of the water system. Repeated high counts of Legionella bacteria have been found in the hot water system requiring extensive engineering work to remove and replace the pipework. A closely managed regime of monitoring and testing is currently in place and the hot water system is being dosed with hydrogen peroxide which kills the free floating bacteria. However this is only an interim measure because pipework at the hospital is old, corroded and the hot water circulation is poor. Legionella will recur unless the plumbing for the whole site is replaced. We have set aside funds to carry out the necessary plumbing works once the outcome of the public consultation is known.
No decision has yet been made about the long term future of Wantage Community Hospital. This will be informed by the major public consultation which begins this autumn, and which involves health and social care organisations in Oxfordshire. The results from the consultation will help determine the future of bed-based and ambulatory care for older people and adults with multiple long term conditions in the county.
We know services provided in our community settings are very much valued by local communities and would encourage people to register their views by taking part in the consultation.