Politicians of all hues have called for a halt to the two-stage consultation that is set to downgrade the Horton General Hospital.
Banbury MP Victoria Prentis, former MP Sir Tony Baldry and Labour leader of Cherwell District Council, Sean Woodcock, all say it is wrong for people to have to give views on loss of half the Horton’s service without knowing how that will affect the second stage of service changes.
The first stage of the process started on Monday and is a public consultation on changing healthcare across Oxfordshire and increasing care closer to home. This means that planned care (which includes tests and treatment planned in advance and not urgent or emergency care) at the Horton General in Banbury, acute stroke services in Oxfordshire, critical care at the Horton, and maternity services including obstetrics, the Special Care Baby Unit and emergency gynaecology surgery.
The second stage will centre on A&Es and emergency care, children’s services and community hospitals across the county.
Mrs Prentis said: “Having had sight of a draft version of the consultation document, I am genuinely worried that the public will not be able to understand what it is they are being consulted on. I don’t understand myself.
“It is almost impossible for the people of north Oxfordshire and beyond to express their views on what is being proposed in Phase One when we have absolutely no idea what will be proposed in Phase Two or what impact our responses in the first part will have on the second part.”
Sir Tony said: “Oxford University Hospitals Trust and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group have ensured it almost impossible for any of us to respond fully and properly to the first consultation document.
“I cannot understand why (they) feel it necessary to have two completely separate consultation exercises. The only reasonable inference is that it is a deliberate attempt at obfuscation and to make it more difficult for local GPs and people to respond.
“Clearly the chief executives have a clear plan of which services they want to close at the Horton and which they want to retain,” said Sir Tony.
“The whole point about commissioning was that it should be GP-led. There is no sense in the first wave of consultation proposals of any regard having been had for the views of local GPs.”
Mr Woodcock said: “Phase 2 of the consultation has not yet been published. That will deal with issues like A&E, which has a direct impact on some of issues that have arisen in phase one. So how can anyone really know what the impact of these changes will be unless these things are looked at in the round? We are being asked to decide on whether we like these plans with half of the information missing.
“We acknowledge some of changes, like acute stroke may well be the right ones. It is also great that more services could be provided at the Horton, cutting journeys to Oxford.
“Unfortunately this is only half the story. This document continues to suggest downgrading of maternity services when the question about escalation to the John Radcliffe of births which encounter difficulty, remains unanswered.
“We will continue to work with others in holding the Trust and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) to account. And we will oppose those changes that we feel put people at risk.
“We renew our call for reinvestment in the NHS and for the government to sort out the social care system which is failing.”