EMERGENCY abdominal surgery is to be permanently removed from Banbury’s Horton General Hospital, as plans were unveiled to shut an OAP mental health ward at the site.

A health watchdog committee said it would not oppose the surgery move after bosses said it would improve care and safety.

The surgery was suspended last January after three of the five consultants on the rota left, meaning about 25 patients a week went to Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital instead.

Managers from across the county NHS told the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview & Scrutiny Committee there were not enough specialist doctors to cover both hospitals.

Andrew Stevens, Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust director of planning and information, said: “You could have a situation with a breast surgeon having to operate on a gall bladder.”

Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust said it will consult staff for a month over the Fiennes ward plans, which would send people to its other OAP mental health ward at the Churchill Hospital’s Fulbrook Centre.

It said community teams will work until 8pm instead of 5pm in the week and weekends from 9am to 5pm, because being cared at home “results in better clinical outcomes”.

Keep The Horton General campaign group chairman Keith Strangwood said: “Services in North Oxfordshire are constantly put under threat from powers in the south of the county.”