CAMPAIGNERS are urging hospital bosses to rethink a decision to stop some patients accessing a cardiac rehabilitation service and gym.

In a letter to MP Sir Tony Baldry, Sir Jonathan Michael, chief executive of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust, said providing the service at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury to patients in long-term recovery from heart attacks was no longer required under national guidelines.

Previously patients who have been advised to take regular exercise – known as “graduates” – could do so at the hospital gym.

But Sir Jonathan said because the service was expanding for those in the first stage of their rehabilitation programme it means the “graduates” can no longer access the service.

Keith Strangwood, chairman of the Keep the Horton General campaign group, said: “It’s not on. They’re always talking about how prevention is better than a cure, but then they stop people using the gym. They need to look at it again and find another way – there must be room somewhere.”

Dr Peter Fisher, a member of the campaign group and ex-consultant at the hospital, said: “This is a very unfortunate development, and most disappointing.

“What is difficult to understand is why there was space before, but now there’s not. There could be a huge rise in cardiac patients, but that seems unlikely.”

However, Sir Jonathan insisted that the “increasing number of patients” is the reason behind the development.

The hospital is in talks with a Banbury gym, Spiceball, to see if it can offer free membership to phase IV patients.

But Dr Fisher is not convinced that this will be enough.

He said: “There needs to be someone medically trained on hand with these patients.”

The hospital’s gym will be closed to all patients for one week from February 21 as part of a renovation of the facilities.

Alison Barnes, spokeswoman for the hospital, said: “Cardiac patients who have been through a rehabilitation programme and are at phase IV are considered well enough to be discharged from the ongoing care of the hospital.

“At the Horton General Hospital there was an historic, informal arrangement whereby phase IV cardiac patients could drop in and use the existing gym facilities.”

David Roberts, gym manager at Spiceball, confirmed they are happy to take on phase IV patients who wish to use the gym.

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TONY Gee, who had a heart attack last year, said access to a gym with trained cardiac nurses is vital.

He said: “The nurses can monitor you all the way through, they can take your blood pressure and make sure you’re doing the right amount of exercise.

“If you just go into any gym willy nilly you could do yourself more harm than good. Some people don’t just bounce back from a heart attack, it takes months and months.”

The 56-year-old, from Wheatley, said: “When I had my heart attack I could choose from three places for my rehab – Blackbird Leys, Abingdon or Witney. But people out at the Horton should have more than just one option.”