Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust will be closing Wantage Community Hospital and relocating services currently provided there to alternative local settings from early this summer. This is a planned closure, required on safety grounds, to permanently eradicate the risk of legionella in the hot water system.
Legionella is a common naturally occurring bacterium and we regularly check all buildings for its presence. Raised levels of legionella have been detected in the hot water system at Wantage and we have been applying effective short-term treatments to the system. Currently there is no legionella risk present.
However, because pipework at WCH is old, corroded and hot water circulation is poor, legionella will recur unless the plumbing for the whole site is replaced.
Keeping the hospital open while work on this scale takes place would make it very difficult to maintain a safe environment and would have a detrimental impact on patient care.
Wantage Community Hospital will be closed from early summer because:
- Prompt action is needed to permanently eliminate legionella risk
- A planned and phased re-location of services is less disruptive to patients and staff than having to provide an emergency closure of the hospital on safety grounds, if the legionella risk were to increase
- Change should take place when urgent care pressures are lower (avoiding winter pressures)
This will take place before a major public consultation planned for this autumn to determine the future provision of bed-based and ambulatory care for older people and adults with multiple long term conditions in Oxfordshire. We have set aside funds to carry out the necessary plumbing works once the outcome of that consultation is known.
Given the high cost of the works required the Trust is concerned that the future use of the building should be determined before undertaking an expensive building project which may then need to be changed as a result of the consultation.
The Trust has discussed these issues with the Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, which has agreed that the closure should happen now; and that the future role of Wantage Community Hospital (as with all community hospitals) should be included in the planned public consultation in the autumn.
The services currently provided at Wantage Community Hospital – 12 inpatient beds, a midwifery led unit and musculo-skeletal physiotherapy outpatients (MSK) – will all be re-provided locally. Practical assistance with travel arrangements will be offered to patients and staff affected by this relocation.
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