Are NHS spending cuts the end of the line for the Horton?

Will the Horton General become a day case unit because of government cuts?
Will the Horton General become a day case unit because of government cuts?

Spending cuts could mean the end of the line for the Horton’s acute services - and that is now official.

David Smith, head of NHS spending in Oxfordshire went on record last week to say Banbury’s hospital is ‘unsustainable in its current form’ and doctor-led services could be ended. Consultant led maternity is due to be moved to Oxford on October 1 and paediatrics is ‘vulnerable’.

He said cuts of £22bn by 2020 - following coalition cuts of £20bn - mean closing some community hospitals and centralising in-patient care.

His statements in the current Health Service Journal, come as Oxford University Hospitals Trust maintains its plan to move the Horton’s consultant led maternity services to the JR is driven solely by inability to recruit enough doctors and is not about money.

Mr Smith is CEO of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) and leader of Oxfordshire Transformation Plan and the Thames Valley Sustainability and Transformation Plan.

He said while plans were not concluded, in-patient care on fewer sites is ‘the direction we’re going to have to go in’.

Options being looked at are for fewer community hospitals which need to support more primary care and do a lot of ambulatory care, diagnostics and outpatients.

The HSJ article quoted Mr Smith as saying: “We have to question the benefit of offering doctor-led maternity services in the long term.”

The story describes the Horton has having ‘agreed’ in the short term to a midwife-only run maternity unit from next month although it is understood the vast majority of staff are wholly opposed to the move.

It reports Mr Smith as saying service changes are ‘very, very sensitive with the public and will be with our politicians’ but he claimed changing ‘the model’ was necessary for long term sustainability.

It is understood the OCCG is waiting for guidelines on when to publish its Sustainability and Transformation Plan. Public consultation is due to begin in December on the Horton and other hospital, health and social care services.

Campaigners believe Christmas is an unhelpful time to consult on the biggest changes in the NHS since its inception 68 years ago.