Oxford

Concern Chipping Norton first aid unit could close

Chipping Norton's first aid unit may have to close because of concerns that it could cost more than £500 per patient to keep it running.

Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust (PCT) said it would cost around £180,000 a year when a new community hospital opens before Christmas.

The PCT said the existing facility was used by one patient per day on average.

But campaigners say people have stopped going because many have been turned away and sent to other hospitals.

Clive Hill, of the league of friends group for Chipping Norton Community Hospital, said local people would be "outraged" to hear the news.

'Outraged'

Mr Hill said campaigners wanted to see a minor injuries unit return to the town, possibly run by advanced nurse practitioners and paramedics.

He said: "We were suspicious about this all along.

"The numbers are only down because people keep being turned away and told not to go there.

"A number got sent to Banbury or Witney because they couldn't release staff from the ward.

"When a survey was done in the town, the minor injuries unit was the most valued part of the hospital, even above the maternity unit, so people will be outraged if this closure happens."

The PCT said it was looking at other ways to provide first aid cover.

One plan is for doctors to treat minor injuries at the town's two GP surgeries, but they are not open during evenings and weekends.

PCT spokesman Ally Green said: "We have a difficulty in how we are going to provide it, at the same time as understanding it is not terribly well used.

"For the last three years (the) average number of people using it was about 30.

"The highest number in any month was 56 and the lowest was 13.

'Real concern'

"The numbers have been falling over the last three years."

The current service is almost cost-free, because nurses come off the care wards to treat patients so the unit does not need its own staff.

But that arrangement will not be possible at the new facility, which will have a day treatment unit in one building and care beds in another area, run by the Order of St John.

Nurses on the wards will not be managed by the National Health Service.

Ms Green said: "They would be away from the patients they are meant to care for.

"These nurses are experienced at looking after older people, providing sub-acute care, and providing first aid isn't their primary skill.

"The way it is provided now is not ideal.

"At the moment we haven't got a model for providing those services or a way to help people have access somewhere else.

"It is a rural area and this is a real concern."

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