A HOSPITAL campaigner says an information stall on the future of Bicester's health facilities has proved so popular he will run it longer than planned.

Town and district Labour councillor Les Sibley said he had received hundreds of replies to surveys about the future of Bicester Community Hospital over the past month.

Mr Sibley has set up an information stall in Bicester town centre for the past four weekends to gauge residents' opinions.

Three weeks ago, he was supported by Bicester's Conservative town mayor Ajit Bhart, and his deputy John Cozens.

And last weekend, Liberal Democrat councillor Nick Cotter also turned out to show his support for the campaign.

Bicester was promised a new 30-bed hospital by the Government in 1998, but the North East Oxfordshire Primary Care Trust plans to replace the town's 12-bed hospital with a primary care day centre, where beds would be rented from a local care home.

Last month, the PCT turned down a housing developer's offer of free land for a new hospital site.

Mr Cotter said: "There was an awful lot of anger because of the offer of the free land.

"What strikes me is that the PCT is effectively an unelected quango.

"It's outrageous that they, in the name of the residents of Bicester, say, 'No, we are not interested'.

"Blame lies both locally at the PCT level and nationally at the Government level. I don't think it should be a political issue. I think we have to move forward and I think the people of Bicester want a decent facility."

And although the stall was meant to finish at the end of August, Mr Sibley said it had proved so popular he would hold at least one extra session.

He said: "The demand was so great we decided we were going to keep on going for longer.

"We are heading towards 3,000 replies. It's been a really good exercise - people don't want to lose their hospital."

Mother-of-two Kim Etchells, 27, from Victoria Road, believes she was one of the last babies born in the hospital before its maternity unit closed in August 1979.

She said: "I have signed six or seven petitions to try to keep the hospital open. My son suffers terribly with asthma and so does my nephew. Numerous times I have had to take my nephew down there, it is a god-send.

"It's sad really, the fact that we have such a nice little community hospital and people keep fighting to keep it open. It's like it is falling on deaf ears."

The PCT says the primary care centre proposals reflect the changing nature of healthcare, which it says is becoming more home-based.

And a spokesman for the PCT said it turned down the offer of the land because it already owned a site in the centre of town.

The information stall will be in Sheep Street tomorrow, between 10am and 2pm.