Tonight’s Horton downgrade meeting moved to St Mary’s after outcry

The last public meeting about the Horton maternity unit at St Mary's, Banbury

The last public meeting about the Horton maternity unit at St Mary's, Banbury

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Hospital campaigners have severely criticised organisation of public meetings to be held so residents can give views on downgrading of the Horton and other local health services.

Banbury’s first public meeting takes place on tonight from 7pm-9pm at St Mary’s Church.

Meeting formats have been changed from round-table talks described as ‘rich dialogue discussions’ to ‘plenary’ events where an audience can ask questions of a panel in front of a crowd.

Chipping Norton Hospital Action Group chairman Clive Hill called the town’s afternoon meeting next week as ‘a farce designed to prevent full public participation’.

Keep the Horton General Campaign (KTHG) group described the original plan at Banbury Town Hall as a ‘cunning plan to limit the number of attendees to 100 (which) has fallen at the first hurdle’.

The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, is consulting on the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan which proposes permanent loss of the Horton’s consultant-led maternity unit, Special Care Baby Unit, emergency gynaecology plus changes to stroke and downgrading critical care in Banbury.

It includes ‘changes to the way beds are used’ and incorporates the loss of 36 acute medical and ten trauma beds closed at the Horton last October. The OCCG urged people who wanted to attend to ring 01865 334638 or email cscsu.talkinghealth@nhs.net to ensure their place. OCCG said there had been no attempt to limit the number of people at the meeting and that the venue had changed to the 500-capacity church to accommodate the different format.

The consultation outlines major changes, with acutely ill people being treated at home in ‘acute hospital at home’.

Campaigners reject notions of patients being transferred to Oxford for births and serious conditions now treated at the Horton.

Keith Strangwood, KTHG chairman said: “The town council and KTHG voiced very real safety concerns for the numbers who would have been refused admission at the Town Hall.

“OCCG obviously thought by trying to dictate terms they could prevent the vast majority having their say,” he said.

“Once again they have underestimated the strength of feeling these draconian proposals have invoked amongst the people of Banburyshire.”

Mr Strangwood urged as many as possible to attend.

“People are being asked to complete the most biased and skewed OCCG questionnaire about their preferences for the Horton. I implore them to find out the facts before giving their responses.”

Mr Hill said the meeting in Chipping Norton next Thursday, February 2, was badly timed. “Who consults between 2pm-4pm on a Thursday if they are genuine about it?

“Our Mayor was told by OCCG the meeting would be small groups sitting at tables talking to OCCG representatives.

“When a whistle blows everyone moves to the next table severely restricting numbers and preventing people hearing points made by others except those on the same table.”

OCCG said the Banbury, Brackley and Chipping Norton events would now have a panel and Q&As.