Banbury Conservatives rally round the Horton General Hospital at HOSC

At yesterday’s extraordinary meeting of Oxfordshire County Council's Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Banbury Conservatives, together with Victoria Prentis MP, strongly rejected the Clinical Commissioning Groups plans for significant service change at the Horton General Hospital.

For months Banburyshire residents, the Keep the Horton General Group (KTHG) and local politicians have displayed a united front, working together to campaign against the centralisation of the Horton’s acute services to the JR. Yesterday's speakers including Victoria Prentis MP, Leader of Cherwell District Council Barry Wood, Leader of Banbury Town Council Kieron Mallon, KTHG members and local elected Councillors were all granted a five-minute slot to present to members of the HOSC committee and representatives from the CCG.

Topics covered range from travel times from Banbury to the JR, the negative impact of service centralisation on patient safety, the growth of the Horton catchment and the domino effect service closure will have on other medical provisions at the Horton site. All speakers were unanimous in their criticisms of the CCG for their “oxford-centric mindset”, their failure to recruit sufficient staff and the confusing and flawed two-part consultation process.

In her own remarks, Victoria Prentis, Member of Parliament for North Oxfordshire made clear that local people are “anxious about the future of our hospital, frightened about the current safety of mothers and babies and angry about the process.”

Despite the strength of feeling locally against the Horton proposals, the CCG is still recommending the permanent downgrade of maternity services.

Local Councillor Eddie Reeves spoke at the meeting. The Horton site is right at the heart of the County Council area he represents. Speaking afterwards he commented: “The downgrade of services at the Horton is already having a significant and detrimental impact on the ability of my constituents, to say nothing of those elsewhere in Banbury, to access high-quality, acute healthcare, particularly maternity provision. In their own conclusions from the phase one consultation the CCG state: “There are almost universal concerns and a lack of support for the proposal to close the obstetric unit at the Horton General Hospital and replace it with a Midwife Led Unit”.

We, therefore, cannot envisage how the CCG can move forward with their proposals for the Horton Hospital without the whole consultation exercise being exposed as unauthentic and ‘a tick in the box’. It's no wonder that Banburyshire residents have lost trust in the CCG to act in their best interests.”

In 2008, the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) concluded that downgrading acute service provision at the Horton, in particular, the transfer of obstetric maternity and paediatric provision, would not provide an accessible or improved service to the people of North Oxfordshire. Leader of Banbury Town Council, Councillor Kieron Mallon commented: It is hugely disappointing that Banbury finds itself in this position again just 10 years on from the IRP’s last set of findings.

The Horton Hospital was a gift to the residents of the town. The underinvestment and lack of support for the sustainability of services at the Horton under the Trust’s stewardship has, unfortunately, and somewhat understandably, led to a reduction in service use in Banbury. This trend could so easily have been avoided, and can still be reversed IF the CCG stopped treating our hospital as an outpost.”

In his presentation Leader of Cherwell District Council Barry Wood called for a “whole new vision for the Horton Hospital” and informed the committee that the Council is “ready” to be an investor in a preferred new model for the Horton.

For HOSC members the purpose of yesterday’s meeting was to examine the Oxfordshire Transformation Programme Phase One consultation and consider the responses to the recent public engagement period. Over 10,000 consultation responses were submitted from concerned residents across the County.

Speaking at the close of the meeting HOSC Chairman, Deddington Division County Councillor, Arash Fatemian said: “The support in the community and cross-Party politically for the campaign to retain vital acute services at the Horton has been relentless. Today’s meeting was a long one but I am delighted that so many local people had the opportunity to come and present their views. I believe it was vitally important for both the committee and the CCG to hear local concerns first-hand.”

During their deliberations, HOSC members unanimously agreed that should the CCG press ahead with their proposals for the permanent downgrade of maternity services at the Horton, the matter would be referred to the Secretary of State for Health for determination.

Cllr Fatemian continued: “What you saw today was the committee, from all political parties, all local councils and the independent lay members, uniting in one voice to say enough is enough and unanimously reject the proposals for maternity on the basis that they are not in the best interests the people of Oxfordshire and surrounding areas.”

The CCGs decisions on Horton services are expected on Thursday 10 August.