Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn used a public meeting to encourage campaigners in their fight to keep essential acute services at Banbury’s Horton.
Mr Corbyn, appearing in Oxford on the Labour Party’s NHS Day of Action, said it was ‘short sighted’ to remove services with the increasing population in north Oxfordshire.
“The Horton General Hospital is under threat through the Sustainability and Transformation Plan. I am sending a message of total support for the campaign but also pointing out how short sighted this is,” he said.
“Any examination of planning permissions granted, of developments taking place and population growth shows there is going to be very big population growth in the next decade or two around the Banbury area.
“How ridiculous to be closing hospital services at a time when we know the population is rising and therefore longer journeys to an A&E department somewhere else bring about great danger.
“The same thing is happening in west Yorkshire, Shropshire and other places.”
Mr Corbyn stopped in Oxford for three engagements on a busy day of campaigning in which 540 events were held across the country as part of the NHS Day of Action.
Stalls were run by party members in Banbury and Bicester where signatures were collected for a petition demanding increased funding for the health service.
Mr Corbyn said: “The A&E departments such as the Horton’s and the JR’s are very important because clearly longer ambulance times mean great danger (to patients).
“Sometimes when an A&E department is closed overnight, such as now is happening in Grantham, it means that the ambulance services have got to take people much further to another A&E department.
“The prospect of another half hour in an ambulance when you are in a serious condition is a half hour when you are not going to be getting the treatment you might need and should be getting.
“The location of A&E departments is so important.,” he said.
“There is the argument that centralisation is cheaper but the human cost is too high.”
Mr Corbyn said the Labour Party’s campaigning work was around the principle of a ‘NHS free at the point of use’.
“If we don’t campaign for this it will go. Nye Bevan was asked how long the NHS would last and he said ‘as long as there are folk around to defend it’.
“Well we’re here, we’re folk and we’re going to defend it.”
He said leaked and advance copies of STPs were allowing analysis to use ‘for a rebuttal of what this government is doing’.
In a joint statement following the Banbury and Bicester activities, councillors Sean Woodcock and Steve Kilsby (Labour leaders on Cherwell district and Banbury Town councils said: “Everyone in Banbury and the surrounding areas knows about the current threat to consultant-led maternity and other services at the Horton Hospital. What Saturday was about is raising awareness of the current situation in the NHS as a whole and how these things are linked.
“After all, it is the lack of proper investment in the NHS and in social care, along with an increasing number of people using these services, that are directly responsible for what is happening at the Horton. The purpose of the day was to get people talking about it. Then, national decision-makers will have no choice but to take this issue seriously”.