A DIDCOT councillor has warned that the town’s rapid growth is outpacing its shrinking hospital facilities.

County councillor for Didcot West Nick Hards told the Oxfordshire joint health overview and scrutiny committee that halving the number of beds at Didcot Community Hospital from 24 to 12 would be made worse by extra planned housing.

He said: “Didcot takes patients from across Oxfordshire, though in my experience many come from just Didcot and the surrounding area.

“It is the most rapidly growing part of the county and with more than 3,000 at present being built on the edge of town and more in the new local plan. We could see it double in size in the next 15 years.

“Losing these beds in the community hospital is quite a blow to us and symptomatic of the problems we have.”

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) axed eight beds in April that were brought in to deal with demand over the winter. A further four were closed over a lack of doctor cover.

It reduced total beds at the Wantage Road hospital, which has one ward, plus dental, physiotherapy and podiatry services, from 24 to 12.

Mr Hards added: “The growth in Didcot has increased pressure on GPs and I am not surprised they cannot cover for hospitals.

“Closing beds here seems to me counter-productive, especially when beds here can help reduce bed-blocking elsewhere.”

At a town council meeting last month Mr Hards said he welcomed the new chief executive of the NHS Simon Stevens’ acknowledgement that smaller community hospitals should play an important part in providing care, especially for the growing number of older patients who could be treated closer to home.

The town council agreed to write to Oxford Health NHS Foundation Trust and OCCG, urging them to invest in improving and expanding health services in Didcot.

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