Banbury Conservatives were pleased to stand with local residents in continuing to fight for the reinstatement of obstetric-led maternity services at the Horton General Hospital at a meeting of the Horton Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HHOSC) today.
In August 2016 Oxfordshire University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUHFT) downgraded the Horton’s maternity provision to a midwife-led only unit, without consultation. Since then Banburyshire residents, the Keep the Horton General group (KTHG) and local politicians have displayed a united front campaigning for the restoration of a fully functioning obstetric-led maternity department in Banbury.
Today's special day-long session focused on the impact of the downgrade of maternity provision on the residents of North Oxfordshire and the surrounding areas. Speakers included Victoria Prentis MP, Member of Parliament for Banbury, The Rt Hon Sir Tony Baldry, High Steward of Banbury and former MP, KTHG members, local mothers and elected Councillors Andrew McHugh (District Councillor for Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote), Eddie Reeves (County Councillor for Banbury Calthorpe) and Tony Ilott (District and County Councillor for Banbury Hardwick). Each speaker was granted a five-minute slot to present to members of the HOSC committee and representatives from the Trust and CCG.
Topics covered ranged from the Trust's recruitment efforts to travel times from Banbury to the John Radcliffe in Oxfordshire, the negative impact of service centralisation on patient safety, the growth of the Horton catchment and the personal experiences of expectant and labouring mothers. All speakers were unanimous that the Trust and the CCG must reverse their decision to remove obstetric-led maternity provision at the Horton.
In her own remarks, Victoria Prentis made clear that local people remain extremely concerned about the continuation of the downgrade. She also anonymously shared the personal stories of brave mothers who had contacted her with their experiences. "We remain anxious about the future of maternity and frightened about the safety of mothers and babies. Patient safety has got to be our top priority. We have been told repeatedly that without sufficient consultants, the obstetrics unit cannot reopen. The Training Dean made that very clear to me when we met in November. Efforts, our efforts, to help with recruitment were ignored by the Trust for two years. They continue to recruit for a post that doesn’t exist."
Councillor Eddie Reeves, Conservative County Councillor for Calthorpe spoke at the meeting. He said afterwards: “The Horton Hospital sits right at the heart of the Division I represent. It is very welcome that the Trust has confirmed the future of A&E and 24-hour paediatric services in Banbury but the reinstatement of obstetric-led maternity needs to follow suit. Patient safety, particularly that of mothers and babies must be the priority. The geography from Banbury to Oxford remains unchanged. The JR is simply far too far.
Throughout the course of the day, the Committee heard many personal testimonies from mothers describing difficult and traumatic birthing experiences. The CCG and Trust need to listen to the qualitative evidence of mothers’ experiences and make decisions on future service provision with patient care at the heart.”
The new HHOSC committee was created as a result of recommendations from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) which came following a referral from the then Secretary of State for Health, the Rt Hon Jeremy Hunt MP. In a report published earlier this year, the IRP ruled that the Clinical Commissioning Group’s initial split consultation was inadequate and failed to take into account the Horton’s wider catchment before concluding the consultation must be re-run.
The cross-border Committee which includes representatives from Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire is Chaired by Deddington Conservative County Councillor, Arash Fatemian: “Today is the day that Banbury, with one voice, from all walks of life - mothers, professionals, residents - supported by local politicians sent a loud and clear message that no matter how you approach the subject, either from population growth, travel times, quality of care or the birthing experience, the case of obstetric-led maternity services at the Horton is overwhelming.
Today’s meeting was a long one, but I want to thank those who spoke and in particular pay tribute to the courage of women who came forward to recount their harrowing stories. I believe it was vitally important for both the Committee and healthcare decision makers to hear local experiences and concerns first-hand.”
You can watch clips from our speakers on our twitter site: @northoxontories.