TURNING a community hospital into a health hub for the district could be the radical solution needed to deal with a soaring population, campaigners have said.

With Witney’s population expected to grow by 50 per cent in coming years, the county's health bosses have been asked to transform Witney Community Hospital into a 'mini Horton General'.

At a meeting on the future of GP services in West Oxfordshire held in Witney last week, the hospital continued to be raised by the public as a facility that must play a key role in the future of healthcare provision in the area.

Alan Beames, chairman of Witney Town Council’s planning and development committee, believes many services offered at John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford could be taken out of the city and distributed to parts of the county where the population is set to grow rapidly.

Mr Beames has been tasked by the town council with working out what infrastructure is needed in the town as its population – and the population of neighbouring villages – grows.

He believes that Witney Community Hospital has a vital role to play.

The councillor said: “I see Witney Hospital becoming a central hub.

"It’s in a great location. It’s accessible on all bus routes from the surrounding villages.

“Certainly with the forecast for Witney’s growth by 2031 we need to be looking at the hospital now so that it will be able to cope with the number of patients coming through.

“It’s about bringing the infrastructure out of Oxford and to where the population growth is.

"I think we now need to find a new model outside of the city."

There are about 10,000 houses in Witney, with planners anticipating that about 4,500 to 5,000 will be built over the next 15 years.

The Welch Way hospital has inpatient beds, a minor injuries unit, an emergency multidisciplinary unit, X-ray facilities and a range of outpatient clinics.

Mr Beames believes the emergency facilities and minor injuries unit could be enhanced to deal with much more that people would otherwise need to travel to the John Radcliffe to access.

He also believes it could house a fully-fledged maternity ward so that expectant mothers in the town could give birth there.

He continued: "With the A40 the way it is, it may be a case of bringing services to where patients are.

"So people from the surrounding villages could come into Witney instead of travelling into Oxford."

The comments were echoed by many in the community, including councillors Jane Doughty and Brenda Churchill, who believe, like Mr Beames, that the hospital is being overlooked.

Oxfordshire’s Clinical Commissioning Group said that enhancing Witney Hospital was a possibility – and said it sees the need for a more joined-up approach among services in the town.

Health bosses added, however, the the plans they are forming around healthcare in West Oxfordshire must take in every part of the locality, and that residents in Carterton, for example, where a meeting is being held tonight, may wish for a 'health hub' facility elsewhere.

For more details from last week's meeting, including an update on Deer Park Medical Centre, see Page 3.