A massive crowd of up to 5,000 Banburyshire people flocked to the Horton General Hospital yesterday (Sunday) in the biggest show of solidarity the town has ever witnessed.
Families, individuals, parents with children in buggies, the able-bodied, disabled, people in wheelchairs - all turned up to link arms around the hospital in a giant, unified refusal to lose acute services in Banbury.
After holding hands around the campus - along Oxford Road, down Hightown Road, along Valley Road and up Upper Windsor Street to reconnect with Oxford Road - demonstrators walked down to the Town Hall where a huge Hands Off the Horton photocall took place.
The demonstration was a Hands Around the Horton re-enactment - the first event was organised by the legendary Keep the Horton General (KTHG) campaign chairman, George Parish, and then Banbury MP Tony Baldry in 2007.
Yesterday’s was organised and run by new Banbury MP Victoria Prentis with KTHG, which has experienced an explosion in supporters since the new threat to consultant services at the Horton became apparent.
Among the new members is a group of social media experts who have caused a Facebook sensation on the group’s , Save Our Horton page, taking membership to over 12,000 individuals.
News of yesterday’s demonstration reached all corners of the Horton’s catchment and people came from all around north Oxfordshire, south Northamptonshire, south Warwickshire and even Gloucestershire.
Doctors and health campaigners came from Oxford to add their voices to the chorus of disbelief that an area as fast-growing as Banburyshire could possibly manage without its specialist services.
Oxford University Hospitals (OUH) Trust bosses have said they will remove consultant-led maternity as early as September if they cannot recruit enough specialist middle grade doctors to provide safe cover.
Protesters from within the hospital say the trust has failed to recruit properly when they first knew gaps would appear in the rotas this autumn.
The Banbury Guardian has been told the trust has received 40 applications but that ‘none was suitable’.
GP Helen Salisbury from Jericho said: “If the Horton maternity unit is inadequate, the trust should make improvements not move it.”
Several senior doctors at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford - where patients will be transferred, some with dangerous complications during labour, have said the JR women’s centre will be unable to cope with the extra patients.
The next event on the campaign calendar is a Question and Answer session at St Mary’s Church, Banbury at 7pm on Thursday (Augusst 25) where members of the public can hear responses by OUH bosses and KTHG campaign chiefs.
See this week’s Banbury Guardian for more in depth coverage of the Save Our Horton crisis.