Campaigners are furious that a planned day-long meeting where NHS cuts – including downgrading the Horton – were to be examined has been postponed.
The meeting to examine the Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) that would see Banbury lose all its inpatient, consultant-led services was to be held in December, but will now be held in the new year.
The STP, which aims to replace hospital care with ‘acute hospital at home’ and remove acute services to Oxford, will be signed off and returned to the government on December 23.
Keith Strangwood, chair of Keep the Horton General, said: “The lack of democracy around these plans to completely downgrade the Horton is extremely worrying.
“Last time the Horton was threatened with losing its services the Oxfordshire County Council Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) referred the matter to the Secretary of State because the needs of a huge population like Banbury’s are far too great to be left to a day clinic.
“The STP has not been published yet because NHS England wants it kept secret until it is too late to change it. And it is purely to cut NHS spending. That means loss of the Horton as a 24-hour acute hospital.
“Something so massive must be gone through with a fine-tooth comb. But scrutiny is being delayed until January – after the the plan has been submitted to the government.
“It will make scrutiny a sham because the blueprint for Oxfordshire NHS will already be confirmed at government level. Either the STP must be published and scrutinised now or the December 23 deadline must be extended. We cannot have confidence in a system that agrees a policy and only invites democratic discussion about it after.”
Oxfordshire County Council’s Paul Smith said: “The STP has yet to go through the final stages of NHS assurance, after which it will become a formal document for public consultation. HOSC will then be in a position to scrutinise the fully published plan in detail in the New Year as a statutory consultee.
“HOSC will scrutinise it as soon as practicable once it’s been formally published.”