A cascade of complaints and criticism has been poured over the public consultation on controversial plans for the Horton and social care.
From former MP Sir Tony Baldry to current Banbury MP Victoria Prentis, Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) and campaign group Keep the Horton General (KTHG), the entire community has registered its opposition and deep concerns over Horton downgrading.
Closing hospital beds in favour of treating people in the community has also come under attack because of a lack of reassurance about sufficient staffing, finance and consideration of the burden on carers.
Calling the consultation ‘fatally flawed’ Mrs Prentis said: “True consultation involves offering options on which consultees can comment, having seen the evidence they need to make informed choices. This is not the case here.
“I still believe this consultation should never have started, or should have been stopped some time ago. Unfortunately, that has not happened.”
Sir Tony reminded Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group of recommendations made by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel in 2008 that acute care should be provided across both Banbury and Oxford sites as part of an integrated system.
Downgrading would not provide an improved or accessible service, he said.
“There is little evidence the trust has sought to consult GPs in Warwickshire or Northants and it is not surprising some medical services will be considered less sustainable if the trust is ignoring a sizeable part of the Horton’s catchment area,” Sir Tony said.
“It is very disappointing the consultation paper presents only the trust’s preferred option. It gives every characteristic of the trust seeking a ‘fait accompli’.”
Sir Tony said it was ‘bizarre’ that Oxford University Hospitals Trust wanted to reduce beds just as Banbury and Bicester areas are to absorb 23,000 new homes. He objected to the prospect of the Horton becoming a ‘random collection of outpatient clinics and medical services’ and to patients just over county borders being pressurised to use distant hospitals in their counties, avoiding ‘any attempt at an integrated NHS provision for patients’.
In his response Cherwell councillor Andrew McHugh, a retired GP practice manager, said: “The consultation process and proposals for (Horton) maternity are opposed by at least five MPs and all elected members of Cherwell District Council. If you were unaware of the unanimity of the opposition to the two stage consultation, I ask you, even at this late stage, to cancel this consultation in favour of a single stage consultation. If you are aware of the unanimity of opposition but have chosen to press ahead regardless, then your actions are high-handed in the extreme.”
In its response KTHG said the CCG should be planning health and hospital services within the 15-year timescale of local authorities’ housing and population expansions, not a rushed five-year horizon.
Cherwell District Council has produced its own alternative plan for the Horton while Oxfordshire County Council has strongly opposed the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan and rejected the consultation.
Labour leaders Sean Woodcock and Steve Kilsby met with CCG bosses coming away with concerns about maternity.
Detailed submissions from county, town and village representatives will be posted up on the KTHG website, www.keepthehortongeneral.org