The Horton General Hospital’s accident and emergency department is included in one of three plans which could mean savage cuts to Banbury health services.
Campaigners this week called for deletion of one of three plans for a future Horton.
But Oxford University Hospitals Trust managers refused to rule out the proposal, which would mean loss of maternity, special care baby unit (SCBU), children’s ward,most trauma/orthopaedic work, medical services and A&E.
A number of midwives and SCBU staff attended the Community Partnership Network meeting where the proposals were officially unveiled for the first time.
Chairman of Keep the Horton General Campaign, Keith Strangwood, said: “Despite fears of retribution these midwives came and proudly spoke out for the mothers of north Oxfordshire.”
All the maternity staff complained of not having been consulted or included in any of the plans’ working groups.
Andrew McHugh, retired practice manager of Horsefair Surgery spoke out firmly against the loss of maternity and paediatrics.
“This (plan) isn’t a midwife led unit it’s a midwife only unit. Yesterday when I got to hear of the proposals I sent out a a survey to GPs and the results show they are overwhelmingly against the idea of a midwife led unit on grounds of safety and that there is a belief that this would be the thin end of the wedge of downgrading the Horton.”
Dr Philip Stevens, a Brackley GP said: “These proposals don’t take into account previous inquiries which were all clear on the need for paediatrics and maternity services (at the Horton).
“What we’ve seen today is separate clinical groups making decisions on the Horton and they (the proposals) are far too rigid.”
Dr Peter Fisher, retired Horton consultant and KTHG member said: “Option two (removal of all acute services) should be deleted forthwith. Patients should be cared for locally and this would mean 20,000 patients a year going to Oxford.
“Since the IRP (Independent Reconfiguration Panel, which in 2008 recommended retention of acute services at the Horton on the basis of dangerous transfer time to the JR) the distance to Oxford has not changed. I am reassured to know GP opinion has not changed.”
Andrew Stevens, director of planning for OUHT said the Oxford deanery, which rules on which services can be used for doctor training - previously crucial to Horton staffing - would not allow trainees to work at the Horton because of lack of patient numbers and work experience.
But Dr Fisher said this need not happen.
“We have been back to 25 units delivering fewer than 2,000 births at the IRP time and they are all still in action, so there are other areas that don’t prevent training at smaller units,” he said.
Mr Stevens emphasised plans were at a very early stage and that options they would hand to the NHS at end of June were not complete. They will be subject to public ‘engagement’ meetings and any major change would go to public consultation in October.
Dr Philip Stevens said all three options had been insufficiently considered and were a ‘very rushed process’ as part of the government’s NHS Sustainability and Transformation plan.
Midwife Marie Manock said: “Unless some super-highway has been built to Oxford why put (rejected proposals) back on the table? The Care Quality Commission has inspected our unit and said it is safe. It is not safe to remove the consultant led unit (CLU).”
Andrew Stevens said there had been ongoing difficulty in recruiting the clinical staff needed to ensure a safe service.
Mr McHugh said: “Of the 1,000 women triaged to Oxford (who needed consultant obstetric care) a lot would be from the pockets of deprivation within Banbury, vulnerable young women who will find it difficult to access the services.”
Andrew Stevens said deprivation would form part of the consultation with GPs, the public and women. He said the aim was to get a lot more pre-birth and post-birth care provided at the Horton including some of the ‘at risk’ clinics.
Campaigners say of the three options, the third is the one they believe health managers want. Option one is the status quo, which managers want to change. Option two is a full downgrade leaving option three which they believe the trusts want to implement.
Option three would have full A&E, stroke rehabilitation, elective day case surgery, inpatient surgery, a trauma service a full acute medical service. But it would mean a stand-alone midwife unit, no SCBU and only paediatric assessment in A&E.
Director of Clinical Services Paul Brennan said births at the Horton could go down from 1,500+ to as low as 300 babies a year.
Midwife Sarah Ayre said a recent major survey showed only six per cent of women would choose to give birth in a stand alone midwife unit.