Ambulance experts say downgrading Banbury’s Horton would create chaos and risk to life

South Central Ambulance Service. The Horton General Hospital, Banbury. Emercency Ambulance. NNL-160816-115834009
South Central Ambulance Service. The Horton General Hospital, Banbury. Emercency Ambulance. NNL-160816-115834009
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Downgrading of Banbury’s Horton General Hospital would cause danger, delays and a risk to life, a leading ambulance man says.

Downgrading of Banbury’s Horton General Hospital would cause danger, delays and a risk to life, a leading ambulance man says.

Paramedic Gavin Bashford spoke about mothers in labour going into shock, deaths in the back of ambulances and chaotic delays during winter time, in an interview with the Banbury Guardian.

Mr Bashford, Unison’s Oxfordshire branch secretary, works for South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS).

He said: “We don’t have the ambulances or the crews to manage this. Our response times are already below 
what they should be and delayed ambulances mean patients waiting far longer than they should for care or transfer.”

He said paramedic recruitment was ‘very difficult’ with SCAS having 250 vacancies.

Any loss of consultant services at the Horton maternity unit next month would mean 1,200 of the 1,500-plus births annually being sent to the JR, Oxford.

Any delivery at the remaining midwife-only unit with complications such as the cord around the baby’s neck, a baby’s heart rate failing or a post-birth haemorrhage, could pose a serious risk to mother or baby.

“At 2am on a quiet, balmy summer night we might be able to get to the JR in 20 minutes at top speed, but Oxford traffic is notorious,” said Mr Bashford.

“In two or three inches of snow at rush hour it may be two to three hours.

“Hopefully a midwife would be in the ambulance but if a baby is coming, you can’t stop it.

“If a baby’s heart rate drops there is nothing we can do.

“The best way is to get the baby out as soon as possible and the safest place is a consultant unit. Apart from a car, the worst place is the back of an ambulance.

“In the case of a serious haemorrhage, theatre is definitely best.

“We do have drugs but if there is fast blood loss we would hardly be able to get to the JR in time. The fluids we carry do not have much oxygen and the patient would go into shock, which is the inability to get oxygen round the body quickly enough. With severe shock the patient goes downhill rapidly.”

Mr Bashford said delays in ambulance responses in winter were much more frequent. 
He said a dedicated ambulance for the Horton maternity unit, suggested by Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) at a cost of £1million a year, might be privately provided as SCAS could not afford to lose an ambulance and specialist staff to sit unused outside the Horton for much of the time.

With regard to wider downgrading of Horton consultant services Mr Bashford said: “We have a finite number of ambulances in Oxfordshire and each call may take an hour to collect and take the patient to the Horton.

“Taking them to the JR, the turnaround will be a lot longer. It is a 50-mile round trip that would have gone straight to the Horton. It puts patients at the Horton and in the community at risk.

“We have dropped to only four ambulances to cover all of Oxfordshire at night. It should be 12 which is not a large number in the light of the growing population and the older population needs our services more.

“We could help if we increased the number of ambulances but it doesn’t seem likely Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group would fund it - and anyway we can’t recruit paramedics.”

Mr Bashford said: “All these downgrading plans assume we have an infinate number of ambulances but we don’t. We struggle now.”
He said he would be ‘gobsmacked’ if the OUHT reopened the maternity unit in February 2017 if it goes ahead with the downgrade next month.