‘No conflict’ over town hospitals

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BICESTER’S community hospital is back on track as health chiefs confirmed it will not be in competition with a similar scheme in Henley.

A three-month delay in the process of choosing a developer for Bicester Community Hospital was announced last month following a change in NHS funding rules.

The delay also prompted concerns funding may only be available for a single hospital in either Bicester or Henley.

But the Strategic Health Authority (SHA) has now given NHS Oxfordshire the green light to find developers for both hospitals.

A spokesman for NHS Oxfordshire said: “Basically this keeps the ball rolling.

“As a primary care trust we’re all feeling positive about this.

“They’re still going through as separate business cases and they’re not competing against each other.”

Outline plans for both hospitals will be presented to the board of South Central SHA on July 28.

Project manager Riana Relihan said potential developers will have to submit their initial responses by July 29.

“We will then evaluate them to compile a long list of bidders to proceed with to the next stage of procurement,” she said.

Retired Bicester GP Dr Michael Curry, chairman of the Bicester Community Hospital Engagement Forum, said it was good news for the town.

“It’s an essential part of a very long and tedious public procurement process.

“The most important thing that’s happened recently is we’ve had SHA approval to go to the next stage.

“They’re bound to continue with it unless no-one comes up with the right answer.

“The SHA could have said, ‘not in this financial climate’, or it could have been one or the other.

“This is good news,” he said.

Dr Curry said he hoped Bicester’s new hospital could be built in “...not more than two years.”

He added: “They’ve been 14 years at it, but signs at the moment are good, and the team dealing with this at NHS Oxfordshire is a good one.”