Hospital supporters have expressed dismay after health trust bosses declined to allow Horton staff to switch on the town’s Christmas lights.
Denying staff permission to perform the festive ceremony in place of a TV celebrity, Oxford University Hospital Trust’s (OUHT) human resources boss said staff ‘felt pressurised and distressed’ by some campaign activities.
Mark Power told the town council some recent activities in support of Horton services had ‘included very personal attacks’.
Val Ingram, who had been arranging the switch-on with Banbury Town Council, called the move ‘mean-minded’.
“Banbury Town Council have been very supportive of the Horton campaign and they were quite happy to have Horton staff turn on the Christmas lights in the absence of a celebrity,” said Mrs Ingram.
“We announced it on the Save Our Horton Facebook page and asked for nominations among staff from the four wards that have already suffered swingeing cuts - maternity, Special Care Baby Unit, Oak Ward and F-Ward.
“I rang the OUHT press office to see if they could help identify staff who had worked in those wards in the last year.
“The person I spoke to thought it was a lovely idea, to recognise Banbury’s local heroes and that this was good publicity for the trust. Then I had Mr Power’s reply which seems very mean-minded.”
Mrs Ingram praised the town council which has offered campaigners a stall in which to do gift wrapping and it is allowing a specially formed Save Our Horton Choir to perform at the lights switch-on event on November 27.
In his letter, Mr Power said: “I appreciate this reflects the high regard the people of Banbury hold for the work of staff at the Horton Hospital. We would only be able to respond to an invitation that treats all our staff equally and which therefore allows consideration of all Horton-based staff.
“Whilst I understand people in the Banbury community feel passionately about their local hospital services, we have a duty of care to our workforce.
“Unfortunately, some staff members have felt pressurised and distressed by the nature of some of the recent campaign activities, which have on occasions included very personal attacks.
“The fact this proposal has come via a Horton campaign group would suggest there is an intention to use the event to highlight a particular cause. In these circumstances, it would be incompatible with our duty of care to put our staff into such a position.
“I hope you understand that for the reasons outlined above we must decline your kind offer at this time,” Mr Power wrote.