NHS campaigners across England encouraged by Horton court result

Horton outside parliament NNL-171009-155123001
Horton outside parliament NNL-171009-155123001

Campaigns the length and breadth of England have received fresh enthusiasm in their fights for their local hospitals, after last week’s successful application for a full hearing into public consultation over plans to downgrade Horton services.

News of the successful claim has created a stream of messages to Keep the Horton General (KTHG) group from other campaigns.

Sarah Stock, from Fighting 4 Life Lincolnshire, said: “The Horton campaign is important to every county. It gives hope to us in Grantham, as the services lost at the Horton and Grantham are very similar and have also been removed under similar circumstances.

“Lack of credible evidence and manipulated statistics behind the decisions appear commonplace and serve an ultimate purpose to carry out the national directive to further dismantle the NHS.”

Phillip Weare, of Save our Hospital Services (SOHS) North Devon, said: “This is a major legal victory which will have ramifications throughout England.

“Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) throughout the country are already nervous about consulting on health service ‘reconfigurations’ that are nothing but cuts to and rationing of essential services. CCGs are already terrified of their own populations.

“Now they will fear facing judges too. Congratulations to the people of Banburyshire. You have done all of us a service almost as vital as those you have campaigned to retain and defend at the Horton General.”

Dr Louise Irvine, who challenged Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt twice in the courts - and won - against downgrading of A&E at Lewisham, said: “The Save Lewisham Hospital Campaign sends a warm message of support to the Keep the Horton General campaigners and welcomes the good news that a judge has agreed to allow a full hearing.

“More and more hospitals, maternities and other health services are under threat. That is why campaigns like KTHG’s are so important and why the outcome of this pre-hearing is so encouraging.”

Pauline Amos, of Support the NHS Halstead, said: “With other groups in Essex, we successfully fought the downgrading of two A&Es – in Chelmsford and Southend. The CCG is currently reviewing the reconfiguration plans in light of our campaigns.

“We’re building in strength and confidence across England, showing the government people will not accept their plans to destroy our NHS. We wish Banbury further success at the full hearing.”

Ozma Hafiz, of Save Wycombe Hospital, said: “It’s great news that common sense has prevailed in the Horton case and we wish it every success. Having lost our consultant-led maternity and A&E, the people of Wycombe and surrounds are well aware of the difficulties faced when vital services are stripped away.

“We continue to campaign for a return of services to our growing town and are currently working with Leigh Day to return much needed beds to Marlow and Thame community hospitals.”

Dr David Wrigley, Lancashire GP, BMA Council and GP Committee member, co-author of ‘NHS for Sale’ and chair of Doctors in Unite, said: “Quite often the naysayers will say ‘what’s the point in local campaigns – nothing ever happens to make a difference’.

“Banbury has proven it’s worth fighting on a local level.”

Steven Carne, editor of the blog 999Call for the NHS, reported the Horton news at a packed ‘Defend our NHS’ meeting in Birkenhead last week.

“People were very interested because the wonderful Women’s Hospital in Liverpool is under threat,” he said.

Jenny Shepherd, of the Calderdale and Kirklees campaign, which is fighting to save its district hospital services, said: “We are buoyed up by the success of the Horton Judicial Review appeal.

“We want to stop these cuts and privatisation-driven plans and, through the NHS Reinstatement Bill, restore the NHS to full public ownership, management and provision, with adequate funding, run in accordance with its founding principles of universal access to comprehensive services, free at the point of clinical need.”

Louise Peace, of Hands Off HRI Huddersfield, said: “This gives us hope in Huddersfield. Well done for all your hard work and congratulations on this result. Best of luck with the next stage.”

And Katie Scott, of Save Rothbury Hospital in Northumberland, said: “Huge congratulations from all of us at Save Rothbury Hospital.”

Councils working on the full hearing

Cherwell District Council, the lead claimant in the action against Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), says is it working out its best approach for the full hearing it has won in the judicial review into the public consultation exercise on proposed Horton downgrades.

Cherwell was joined in the legal action by South Northants and Stratford-on-Avon district councils, Banbury Town Council and Keep the Horton General group as an ‘interested party’.

The councils argue the consultation was inadequate, fundamentally flawed and confusing for people who wanted to have their say on the future of their local hospital.

This week, a spokesman for Cherwell said: “Cherwell District Council is currently working closely with its partner councils and its legal counsel to agree the best approach to the (forthcoming) hearing.

“It remains fully committed to challenging the consultation process and some of the decisions of the OCCG regarding the Horton.”

The councils say the two-phase consultation process (with bed closures, consultant led maternity and intensive care in phase one with children’s services, A&E and primary care in phase two) was highly confusing for any ordinary member of the public who wanted to respond.

The councils have sought specialist advice from legal and medical professions to make sure the case was made as strongly as possible and to help put forward positive and imaginative proposals for the way the Horton can best serve the area in the years to come.

The ruling at the Royal Courts of Justice runs in parallel with three referrals to the Secretary of State of the process and commissioner decisions so that every avenue of challenge to these hugely unpopular health changes is pursued.

Group to fundraise with new vigour

Banbury’s campaign group, Keep the Horton General (KTHG), has welcomed last week’s ruling by Mr Justice Fraser that Cherwell, South Northants, Stratford on Avon and Banbury town councils – and KTHG – should be given a full hearing into the way public consultation on downgrading various Horton services was run this spring.

Keith Strangwood, chairman of KTHG, said the group would continue fundraising with renewed vigour and continue to collect evidence to help the legal challenge which is expected to take place over two days in late November or early-mid December.

“Last Tuesday’s result has shown that the courts in our land will work for the people and can hold bodies to account – that clinical commissioning groups cannot run roughshod over the rules,” he said.

“It is clear from the hearing result that there is a case to answer.

“KTHG is busy compiling further documented evidence and looks forward to the full hearing later this year,” he added.

KTHG and all those fighting the case hope the judge agrees with their submission that there are serious legal flaws in the consultation, that the consultation must be quashed and that the August 10 decision for permanent downgrade of maternity, intensive care, and closure of 45 Horton beds, taken by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group on the back of it, must also be quashed.

Such a ruling would mean new public involvement would have to take placeand a new decision taken.

Mr Strangwood said: “This step closer is a landmark case other groups can follow and hopefully be a blow to the government’s plans and cuts in the name of transformation.”

Charlotte Bird, KTHG press officer, said: “We’ve been asked by our legal team to compile a dossier of people’s experiences in relation to the removal of consultant led maternity and bed closures. Please contact keepthehortongeneral@hotmail.co.uk in order to contribute.”