Banbury MP calls for consultation before changes to hospital services

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis NNL-150826-094619001
Banbury MP Victoria Prentis NNL-150826-094619001

Banbury’s MP has called for greater democracy when changes such as the recent move of consultant-led maternity are required.

Victoria Prentis used a Ten Minute Rule Motion to the House of Commons to stress her unhappiness with the lack of public involvement or consultation on such a major change at the Horton General Hospital this month.

“I feel let down by the way we have been treated this summer, by the lack of good management, transparency or evidence-based decision-making,” Mrs Prentis told the chamber. “I am concerned that without change to the law, other areas may also suffer as we have.”

During her speech, Mrs Prentis voiced her concerns about the way in which the decision was taken and emphasised the need for public consultation whenever there is a change to NHS services, even when it is in response to an emergency situation.

“I was a civil servant for 17 years and on the whole I believe the best of our public servants. This Bill would increase accountability of local trusts and commissioning authorities. Where major changes to service provision are proposed, clinical groups and medical consortiums are not a replacement for public consultation.

“Doctor may know best, but only when he has listened to the patient. Local decision making can work, but only with democratic accountability,” she said.

Oxford University Hospitals Trust replaced the Horton’s specialist obstetric service with a midwife-only unit at the start of October.

The trust claimed it could not recruit doctors to keep the unit safe. Managers knew of impending departures of Horton doctors but did not advertise for replacements until late April, two weeks before a full Horton downgrade was announced.

An OUHT spokesman said: “Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust took a decision in August 2016 to temporarily transfer some maternity services from the Horton General Hospital to the John Radcliffe Hospital. The decision was taken under our emergency powers on the basis that patient safety would have been directly compromised if the Trust had continued with an obstetric-led service at the Horton without enough doctors able to give this obstetric care.

“Consulting formally on the temporary transfer of some maternity services was therefore not an option given the urgency of the situation at hand. Nevertheless, we have and are continuing to engage with Victoria Prentis MP, local healthcare practitioners, campaign groups and the wider community to ensure they remain informed while this temporary transfer remains in effect.

“The Oxford Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) is planning its Oxfordshire wide consultation on its Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) early next year. Within this process there will be a full public consultation on the delivery of maternity services across the county, and the Horton will fall within this.

“In the meantime the Trust is continuing its recruitment efforts to fully staff the Horton with the required obstetricians to enable the obstetric-led services to be returned to the Horton.

“With regard to the specific point made by Mrs Prentis about our risk assessments, we can confirm that a ‘risk register’ was published as part of our Board Papers on 31 August when the Trust Board approved the decision to temporarily transfer these services from the Horton General Hospital.