Banbury MP Victoria Prentis slammed Oxfordshire health chiefs over the Horton downgrade in a debate on healthcare in the county at the Houses of Parliament this morning (Tuesday, October 17).
Mrs Prentis was joined by MPs from Oxfordshire and surrounding constituencies in the Westminster Hall debate, called by West Oxfordshire MP Robert Courts.
Opening the session, Mr Courts raised concerns about GP and maternity services, stroke care and the Oxfordshire Clincal Commissioning Group’s (OCCG) recent consultation.
His points were echoed by neighbouring MPs, including Ed Vaizey (Wantage), Layla Moran (Oxford West and Abingdon), John Howell (Henley) and Nadhim Zahawi (Stratford on Avon) .
Victoria highlighted issues relating to population growth, safety and communication.
She emphasised problems with the processes followed by health chiefs in the county, particularly in relation to the split nature of the consultation and a lack of real engagement with local people.
Towards the end of her speech, Victoria outlined the need for ‘reasoned and evidence based conversations about the future’, expressing the determination felt locally to protect vital acute services in north Oxfordshire.
After the debate, she said: “I am very pleased that my neighbour and fellow local MP, Rob Courts, secured such an important debate in Westminster this morning.
“It is clear that we are united in our frustration with local health providers. “The clinical commissioning group must engage and consult local people properly, and across county boundaries, to enable us to move forward safely. The fight for acute services and local health care continues.”
Mrs Prentis said the current devolution of health services was not working during the Westminster Hall debate and she was glad the two top members of the OCCG were leaving.
“If this is devolution, it is not working,” she said.
“The chief executive and clinical lead at CCG leaving by the end of the year. I’m delighted as quite frankly they are not up to it.”
Mrs Prentis said they were ‘hell bent’ on continuing their split consultation changes that result in Horton downgrading despite the current judicial review of the lawfulness of Phase One consultation.
“It is a poisoned chalice for whoever inherits the CCG job,” she said.
“Our district council tops the leaderboard for housebuilding. In under ten years (after the last battle for the Horton), we find ourselves with no obstetrics or special care baby unit; gone in the blink of the eye without any real attempt to address recruitment issues.”
In the debate, Mrs Prentis lamented the decision to remove the Horton’s training accreditation for middle grade maternity doctors which had been the ‘straw that broke the camel’s back’ for recruitment resulting in removal of the obstetric unit.
“We remain deeply unhappy and frightened, with patients travelling up to two hours in the final stages of labour and emergency gynae operations taking place in a portacabin in the JR car park,” she said.
“A recent decision to remove accreditation from certain grades of anaesthetists puts all the acute services at the Horton General Hospital at risk. I had to tell them this had happened. The Dean had not communicated this to the Trust or CCG.
“The Oxford University Hospitals Trust tells the CCG what to do. When they do not agree, stalemate. For example the Trust, clinicians and everyone locally know they can’t possibly shut A & E but the CCG are determined to press ahead with a (Phase Two) consultation which suggests just that.”
“In 2008, local GPs were pivotal in the fight to save the Horton. Poor leadership and an ever-increasing workload has prevented them being the vocal force they once were. I have found allies in NHS Improvement, who have been investigating the Trust, and the Care Quality Commission - who can prosecute.”
Mrs Prentis, who was reported this week saying the CCG should be closed down, said: “Our latest consultation report described ‘universal concerns’ of over 10,000 people who responded.
“Everyone locally feels as I do, but at our last meeting the Trust chief executive branded my fears as ‘irrational’. Rather than try and go some way to allaying fears, I am simply ignored.
“They do not communicate with elected representatives or the public. It is up to us to organise public meetings. NHS Improvement was appalled when I showed them the pile of unanswered letters. Colleagues beyond the county boundary whose constituents use the Horton are also completely overlooked.”
Mr Courts added: “Healthcare is the number one issue of concern locally and that is why it has been my priority since being elected.
“Nothing is more important than the health of you and your loved ones. Services must be up to scratch to cater for everyone in West Oxfordshire – now and in future as this area develops.”