Banburyshire survey to get to the heart of mothers’ experiences

The mothballed post-natal maternity unit at the Horton
The mothballed post-natal maternity unit at the Horton

Plans are being made to ensure Banburyshire is given a strong voice in the review of downgrade of the Horton’s maternity service.

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) says it is working with representatives of the public to appoint a suitable company to carry out a survey of mothers and families.

And south Warwickshire and south Northants will be included - areas left out of last year’s consultation on closure of Horton obstetrics.

Ally Green, head of communications at OCCG told Monday’s Horton Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee - which is reviewing the closure - said: “We wanted to get ahead in appointing an expert company to help so we had a meeting of a small working group that included members of this committee and a member of Keep the Horton General Campaign as well as staff from OCCG and Oxford University Hospitals to start thinking of what we want from that survey, what evidence and information we need to help the decision-making.”

Dr Keith Ruddle, a HHOSC member of the sub group, said it was hoped work on the survey would start soon after Christmas.

He said the sub group wants the survey to get to the heart of patient experience.

“Our debate included a bit of ‘dancing on needles’ about safety, not so much straight clinical safety but patients not feeling safe, getting anxious, having bad outcomes in terms of well-being, stress and family disruption.

“I’ve since read the National Childbirth Trust and Women’s Institute report on women’s experience of maternity services which highlights 50 per cent of

everybody surveyed had ‘red flag’ incidents - defined by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence as potential issues with staffing and procedures ,and it got a lot of that detail.

“I read the latest dossier from Keep the Horton General on the detailed story narratives of 20 or so people . That kind of analysis is in really good, fine-grain detail and it gets at a lot of specifics including, I’m certain, red flag incidents.”

Dr Ruddle called for ‘the design of the survey and the people that do it get at that level of experience, whether through a survey, one-to-ones, or focus groups’.

Dr Ruddle said he felt the organisation carrying out the information search should have a copy of the KTHG dossier which he said ‘gets at the right level of detail’.

OCCG plans for its ‘engagement’ plan will specifically seek feedback from mothers who have given birth since the Horton consultant-led maternity unit was downgraded to a midwife-only unit in 2016.

It will also be involving a wide range of stakeholders from the wider public, GPs, MPs, local authorities, Horton staff, voluntary groups and the Keep the Horton General campaign group.

It will revisit concerns over travel times between Banbury and Oxford, parking at the JR and Horton and the risks over the distance to specialist help at the JR unit in emergencies.

OCCG has pledged to be open and transparent, maintaining a log of all communications - letters, briefings, data, analysis, an evolving question and answer page and papers -on its website.

Events will allow participants to take part in discussion and consideration of options for maternity services in Banbury. OCCG is expected to sift through nine different options and make a recommendation to the Horton HOSC.

The group will include all districts of Oxfordshire plus south Warks and south Northants in its survey.