A new Banbury councillor has accused Oxford hospital bosses of planning to downgrade the Horton for years.
Andrew McHugh said the Banbury hospital could die a ‘death by 1,000 cuts’ if public consultation on loss of the 24-hour children’s ward and A&E was split from that for the removal of maternity, special care baby unit (SCBU), 36 stroke and adult medical beds and ten trauma beds last month.
Mr McHugh, councillor for the Adderbury, Bloxham and Bodicote division on Oxfordshire County Council, told the Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee: “I believe there has been a decision already to remove all acute services at the Horton and it predates the removal of emergency abdominal surgery (in January 2013).
“I am also concerned if we consult on each of those acute services at the Horton piecemeal we will die the death of a 1,000 cuts.
“If you remove consultant led obstetrics you then call into question SCBU which will go – and call into question the viability of 24-hour paediatric care.”
He added all the services were linked and should be consulted on together.
The discussion centred on how public consultation on the services already removed should be undertaken in January.
Consultation on future plans to axe the 24-hour children’s ward, the remaining trauma beds and A&E will be carried out in May or June.
During the discussion Oxford University Hospitals Trust head of planning, Andrew Stevens said: “You could argue that by having a consultation that’s focussed on the changes (already made) you’re giving the public a much greater chance to comment on those.
“Nothing in the first (consultation) will prejudice the second,” said Mr Stevens.
Dr Bruno Holthof, Chief Executive of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “We made the decision to remove emergency abdominal surgery from the Horton on patient safety grounds. This was supported by our commissioners and Oxfordshire’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee. Our more recent decision to temporarily suspend obstetric led maternity care was also made on patient safety grounds – we cannot run a service if we do not have enough doctors to do safely.
“I reject the suggestion that there are plans to remove all services from the Horton. Our plans for the future of the Horton are to develop it as a general hospital fit for the 21st century. These plans involve the Trust investing in the hospital. We aim to bring at least 60,000 additional outpatient appointments a year to Banbury from Oxford to reduce the need for local people to travel. We are also planning a big investment in improved diagnostics. Some of this investment has already happened, such as the refurbished radiology department and work is now starting on a £3.6 million investment to replace the CT scanner.
“In addition, the newly refurbished Endoscopy Unit at the Horton will be officially opened this week following several million pounds of investment.”