Hospital campaigners use D-Day to call for childbirth to be returned to Banbury

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Hospital campaigners used D-Day to call on councillors to push for full childbirth services to be returned to Banbury.

Keep the Horton General (KTHG) Campaign group chairman, Keith Strangwood, asked Oxfordshire councillors to use their power to ensure mothers in the Banbury catchment can have their babies safely, close to home.

He was speaking in advance of the publication of a Birth Trauma Dossier being published next Monday (June 17). Stories from the dossier have been appearing in the Banbury Guardian over the last month.

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Mr Strangwood told the Oxfordshire Joint Health and Overview Committee (HOSC) – the first step of community involvement in the NHS – that the NHS was paying out billions in compensation to mothers let down and injured buy the country’s maternity services.

The ambulance that sits outside the Horton maternity unit 24 hours a day to blue-light mothers experiencing difficulty in childbirth to OxfordThe ambulance that sits outside the Horton maternity unit 24 hours a day to blue-light mothers experiencing difficulty in childbirth to Oxford
The ambulance that sits outside the Horton maternity unit 24 hours a day to blue-light mothers experiencing difficulty in childbirth to Oxford

“NHS Resolution, which deals with compensation claims on behalf of the NHS in England, showed that clinical negligence payments for childbirth cases in 2022-23 were £2.6 billion.

"If you include payments for ‘maternity harm’ this figure goes up to £8.2 billion, he said.

"Putting this in to context, the consultant-led maternity unit at the Horton used to cost £2.3 million a year and delivered 1,750 babies. Since 2016 it has been a midwife-only unit delivering up to 10 births per month and the emergency ambulance, parked outside 24 hours a day costs £1m a year alone.

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"Many say the increase in compensation payments is due to the widespread restructuring and downgrading of maternity units such as the Horton’s,” he said.Mr Strangwood said the centralisation of maternity services to huge, overworked city departments, was part of Government-inspired changes to the NHS.

Keith Strangwood, chairman of Keep the Horton General campaign group, who called for a D-Day victory to bring obstetrics back to BanburyKeith Strangwood, chairman of Keep the Horton General campaign group, who called for a D-Day victory to bring obstetrics back to Banbury
Keith Strangwood, chairman of Keep the Horton General campaign group, who called for a D-Day victory to bring obstetrics back to Banbury

"We need to stop this false economy,” he said.

He told HOSC councillors their remit and power was to scrutinise and if necessary, refer serious cases to the Secretary of State for Health. He said HOSC had done this in 2006, resulting in an inquiry that saved the Horton maternity service for a further decade.

“The expectant mothers of all the constituents you represent are experiencing a poor service from the JR due to its inability to cope with the increasing number of expectant mothers attending the hospital since the removal of the Horton’s obstetrics,” he said.

HOSC is to meet with Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUH) and other NHS regional health reps on July 2 to discuss maternity services in Oxfordshire.

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Charlotte Bird, Keep the Horton General group media officer, who explained the history of the Horton downgrade to councillorsCharlotte Bird, Keep the Horton General group media officer, who explained the history of the Horton downgrade to councillors
Charlotte Bird, Keep the Horton General group media officer, who explained the history of the Horton downgrade to councillors

KTHG’s media officer Charlotte Bird lamented the loss of the Horton’s ‘thriving, award-winning, consultant-led maternity unit and Special Care Baby Unit’ in 2016. She told councillors the dossier includes stark comparisons to the Horton’s childbirth service before the downgrade and the JR service now.

She said the Royal College of Obstetrics and Gynaecology stated in 2007 ‘evidence is not available to support the positioning of midwife led units distant from the support of obstetricians, anaesthetists and paediatricians. Transfer times are unpredictable and the vulnerable and disadvantaged may be the first to suffer'.

"They also said that when an emergency does occur at home or in a midwifery led unit the transfer time to hospital is crucial and it favours midwifery led units on the same site as consultant care,” said Ms Bird.

Ms Bird reminded the committee of the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s (IRP) 2008 announcement that transferring mothers in labour to Oxford from Banbury would be ‘unsafe and inhumane’ and that it would not ‘provide an accessible or improved service to the people of north Oxfordshire and surrounding areas’.

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The Horton Maternity Hospital, once a thriving obstetric unit with Special Care Baby Unit, now a midwife-only serviceThe Horton Maternity Hospital, once a thriving obstetric unit with Special Care Baby Unit, now a midwife-only service
The Horton Maternity Hospital, once a thriving obstetric unit with Special Care Baby Unit, now a midwife-only service

"Despite the IRP’s thorough and professional judgment, proposals and guidelines the Trust drove a coach and horses through them in order to get their own way. Horton training accreditation was manipulated away when the goalposts were moved more than once. Initially the number of births required for training accreditation (which allowed us to have trainee obstetricians on rotation) was 1,750. When that was reached it moved to 2,000 and as we approached that it moved to 2,500. We believe this was deliberately done to provide the 'unsafe' label that put the Trust in a position to be able to shut down our obstetrics unit.”

Roseanne Edwards from the Banbury Guardian said the paper had begun publishing horrendous stories submitted to Keep the Horton General’s dossier of 50 cases plus 20 from the Banbury Guardian’s archive between 2016 - 2020.

“These accounts prove how the promises of safe, better childbirth at the JR since 2016, when Banbury’s consultant-led service ended, were false. The reality has resulted in some indescribable experiences for mothers who have been terrified, traumatised and in many cases left with PTSD,” she said.

“The repeated problems show the JR is trying to cope with far too many births for its facilities and staff. This is resulting in micro-management of deliveries, playing dangerously with disaster.

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“Too many mothers are being forced into unnatural childbirth, neglected and rejected beforehand and afterwards, and emotionally abused.

“Mothers report systematic neglect on the wards. Mothers are routinely being induced and then delayed until they become emergencies which are then prioritised for delivery. Then there is reliance on medical intervention when things inevitably go wrong. This is unacceptable.

“Childbirth at the Horton’s maternity unit was notoriously well thought of. It accepted overflow from Oxford. The JR was warned that taking on another 1800 births per year then, with midwives leaving the profession in droves because the pressures, would prevent them providing a safe service. Midwives themselves have held protests in Oxford over the intolerable pressures.

“Now Oxford is dangerously overburdened with no hope of change,” said Mrs Edwards. “The OUH and CCG refused to consider alternatives because the JR was short of staff. The Banbury obstetric service, with its happy team, never had a problem recruiting - until it was threatened with closure. It could and should be reinstated.”

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