Concerned residents could get a say in plans to transfer hospital beds at Chipping Norton to private providers – but they only get two options.
Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet are being asked to approve a public consultation on the controversial move at their meeting on September 15.
If approved, the consultation will run from October 5 to December 7, and a report on the findings will be presented to the council’s cabinet on January 26.
The council thinks it would be cheaper to transfer control of the hospital’s care services from using NHS to the Orders of St John group.
The group already runs the care home next to Chipping Norton Community Hospital, and used to run the 14 intermediate care beds. If the consultation goes ahead it will give residents two options on how services should continue.
These are transferring the care services to St John, or providing intermediate care services based in people’s homes, closing the unit entirely.
John Jackson, director of adult social services at Oxfordshire County Council, said: “Whilst we recognised that the operational issues could be resolved, we could not identify a way forward which resolved the financial issues without requiring additional investment.
“Analysis shows that the current arrangements are only affordable until the end of March 2016 at the latest.
“The leader of the council, the deputy leader of the council and the cabinet member for adult social care are all clear that the county council has a duty to obtain best value for the taxpayer.”
He added: “The current arrangements do not represent good value for money when compared to other intermediate care in the county.”
News of the proposed changes has prompted upset from some residents and campaigners, including Rachel Coney of county consumer watchdog Healthwatch.
At the time of the announcement she said: “We believe the approach put forward can only lead to further escalation of tension and anxiety on the part of patients, carers, the public and staff.”
The hastily reformed Chipping Norton Action Group is furious because it was told only last August that beds were safe with NHS nurses for at least three years of a five year contract.
She said: “Our MP David Cameron has written to us saying ‘I remain of the view it would be best for the NHS to staff the hospital beds’.”
The council called a round table meeting of interested parties on July 24 in an effort to smooth over the upset. And it says it was agreed that the organisations involved with the commissioning of the intermediate care beds would consider the operational and financial implications of the service in the short term.
Mr Jackson added: “ If this is approved at the cabinet meeting we will begin to consult on alternative arrangements which are sustainable beyond March 2016.
“The public consultation will allow for wider engagement with the people of north Oxfordshire with others affected by intermediate care provision, to hear the range of ideas and views which they have about intermediate care.
“The public, organisations and individuals with an interest in intermediate care provision will be engaged through meetings, questionnaires and focus groups. The ways people can get involved will be widely publicises through the local media, newsletters and digital platforms.”
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