Campaigners slam health chiefs after Horton birth transfer held up with burst tyre

A SCAS ambulance at the Horton General Hospital
A SCAS ambulance at the Horton General Hospital

Campaigners have accused health chiefs of subjecting Banburyshire patients to ‘Russian roulette’ with risky transfers to Oxford.

The Keep the Horton General Campaign (KTHG) made the accusation after a woman in labour, being transferred from the Horton to Oxford, was held up when an ambulance tyre burst on the A34.

The rush hour traffic was halted while a relief ambulance was summoned and the woman was moved from one vehicle to the other.

“It’s a classic case of Russian roulette in transferring women with so-called ‘low risk’ births at the Horton midwife unit to Oxford when things go wrong, as they inevitably do sometimes,” said KTHG chairman Keith Strangwood.

“It is a perfect example of what we have predicted all along – that births go wrong without warning; that they can happen during rush hour and when traffic cannot get to the JR quickly and then something else happens on top to hold the whole process up still further.

“What happens in the snow, thick fog or if an accident has blocked the road? The blunt fact is that the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) and Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) are turning their backs on the people of Banburyshire.

“They’re doing it because of financial cuts and the OCCG should be telling NHS England that it is not safe to be transferring mothers so far.”

The temporary closure of the Horton’s consultant led unit took place, with closure of 45 medical beds, last October.

A dedicated ambulance for emergency transfers, hired privately at a reported cost of £1m a year, has been kept outside the midwife-only unit that replaced the obstetric service.

South Central Ambulance Service (SCAS) gave the following timeline for the incident:

n 8.17am – emergency call received from Horton Maternity Unit.

n 8.18am – dedicated transfer ambulance (a private ambulance contracted for OUHT via SCAS) is dispatched.

n 9.02am – ambulance reports a tyre blow out in lane two of the A34 and requests replacement to complete transfer.

n 9.03am – replacement ambulance dispatched by SCAS.

n 9.17am – replacement ambulance and Thames Valley Police arrive at scene.

n 9.40am – patient arrives at John Radcliffe Hospital.

One unconfirmed report said the maternity department chiefs were so concerned about the outcome, the top consultant met the ambulance at the 

Richard McDonald, head of operations (Oxfordshire) at SCAS, said: “On September 25, our ambulance based at the Horton General Hospital suffered a tyre blow out on the A34 whilst transferring a maternity patient to the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford.

“The crew promptly notified our control room and a second ambulance was immediately dispatched to the scene.

“With the aid of Thames Valley Police, the patient was safely transferred from the first ambulance in lane two of the A34 to the second ambulance, which then completed the patient transfer.

“The delivery at the JR was completed without issue and the mother reported as fine.

“I would like to congratulate the family on their new arrival and thank staff in our control room, as well as our staff and police officers at the scene for acting so promptly and professionally to the unexpected interruption during the transfer and helping ensure it was completed safely.”

OUHT declined to make a comment on the incident.