Campaigners have expressed shock that the overstretched ambulance service has not been central to formation of plans that could see huge increases in their work.
Keep the Horton General chairman Keith Strangwood said plans to end acute services in Banbury and transfer patients to Oxford will mean a vast increase in demand for South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) and crews.
He said SCAS should have been involved in creating the plan from the start to ensure it was safe and workable.
The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), whose Oxfordshire Transformation Plan aims to end the Horton’s acute provision, said it was involved in ‘developing plans’ for after consultation.
SCAS said it had not written a formal response but was ‘contributing to the feedback’.
Mr Strangwood said: “They are asking the public to make written submissions on their views about loss of all our acute services at the Horton. Why have they not got written confirmation from SCAS that they will be able to manage the huge increase in their workload?
“Their plans rely on SCAS being 100 per cent behind it and able to take on the work. People having strokes and heart attacks need to get to Oxford quickly but if the full downgrading goes ahead there will be a lot of A&E patients, mothers in labour, sick children and elderly trauma and illness cases to be taken there.
“There is nothing in the consultation document about whether the ambulance service can deal with their plans. We must know the truth before decisions are taken,” said Mr Strangwood.
“Last summer Unison said SCAS were looking for 250 paramedics. Its recruitment page is trying to recruit ambulance staff internationally there is such a shortage across the UK.”
Michelle Archer of SCAS said: “The plans are under consultation and... we have contributed in conversations and general engagement to that process. We have not formulated a written response... as we are involved in other ways.
“As this is a consultation about potential plans it is still under consultation so to make predictions about how this could affect our service and speculate about the impact would not be appropriate.”
An OCCG spokesman said: “SCAS is working with the OCCG and the Oxford University Hospitals in developing plans for managing the potential impact of any permanent changes made after consultation.
“The changes for stroke and critical care would affect a relatively small number of patients with two to three additional ambulance journeys to Oxford each week. The temporary changes to maternity are currently being managed and monitored and SCAS is supporting these arrangements.”
UNISON South East regional spokesperson Sarah O’Donoghue said: “South Central Ambulance Service is trying hard to fill staffing gaps. But it’s an uphill struggle with too many (ambulance) trusts competing for too few qualified staff without proper funding. Trusts across the country are facing the same challenges.
“Ambulance workers are under intolerable pressures because there aren’t enough qualified staff. On top of that, there are too few hospital beds. So it’s no wonder many are quitting for better paid, less stressful jobs.
“Downgrading the Horton will only add to the strain. Ambulances will have to travel further on difficult roads to take critically ill patients to hospital. This could lead to delays and put lives at risk.”