Chipping Norton campaigners, hoping to keep their NHS-run community hospital beds, have appealed to the Secretary of State for Health to review the handover of the unit to a private trust.
The Chipping Norton Hospital Action Group (CHAG) has written to Jeremy Hunt and the Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) for independent review.
It believes Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) took over the 14 NHS-staffed beds without public consultation and planned the downgrade while Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) was promising the Secretary of State for Health there would be no change to the status of the beds.
The unit is due to be handed over to the Orders of St John Trust - which runs the adjoining 36-bed care home - on April 1.
“Responses we have obtained under freedom of information show there are serious questions to be answered. If OCC/OCCG are proved to have acted wrongly they would have to reverse it at their cost. We can’t afford to and won’t let this drop,” said Clive Hill of CHAG.
CHAG says downgrading, while cheaper, will give patients inferior, longer rehabilitation treatment by less qualified staff.
A spokesman for OCC said: “In 2011 the new campus was opened and from the start OCC took on the role of lead commissioner for intermediate care beds, as it did throughout Oxfordshire. The council commissions intermediate care beds because these services provide part of an overall pathway of social care that avoids hospital admissions and supports people to regain independence. The 2014 changes to the specification were not considered as needing consultation - we did not change the outcomes or purpose of the service, simply clarified.” Mr Hill said CHAG, in its letter to HOSC, had pointed out its dispute with the county council whose cabinet rubber-stamped the decision to transfer care to Orders of St John in January for implementation after March 31.
“We have solid evidence in letters from OCCG, dated 2010, before the unit opened in 2011 saying beds would be commissioned and paid for by the NHS - as NHS beds,” he said.
“We have asked when the decision was taken to hand over to Oxfordshire County Council and never had an answer or who had the authority to do it. There has been no consultation at all. “We know the specification was for community hospital beds in 2011 and the deputy director for joint commissioning of OCCG said in 2014 there would be no change from sub acute medical care - that there were no plans to change service provision at Chipping Norton - at the same time OCC was downgrading the beds.”
Mr Hill said his group believed it is wrong that OCC should be ‘self policing’ via its HOSC committee.
“HOSC is meant to scrutinise commissioning but it seems it’s become too close to the commissioners,” said Mr Hill.
“We have sent two dossiers to the Secretary of State and David Cameron (Chipping Norton MP) has asked Jeremy Hunt to take a good look at it.
“Care home intermediate care is very different to community hospital intermediate care. Community hospital sub-acute care is given at a much higher level, including such treatments as oxygen and intravenous drips. Care home intermediate care is at the level of care home assistants who provide care more focussed on elderly people than those aged 18+,” he said.