The Keep the Horton General campaign group has urged a note of caution after the release of a critical report from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel on the downgrade of the consultant-led maternity unit at the Horton.
In a statement released yesterday, Wednesday,Banbury MP Victoria Prentis welcomed its recommendation for further work to be undertaken before a final decision is made about the future of maternity services at the Horton.
And she said the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care Jeremy Hunt has accepted the Panel’s advice and suggested that a joint overview and scrutiny committee which spans the Horton’s catchment area – and covers all the local authorities – is set up to monitor progress going forward.
Mrs Prentis said: “The IRP’s conclusion that further work needs to be undertaken comes as a huge relief and is recognition of what many of us have been saying repeatedly since the flawed consultation process began.
“Not only do they recognise the obvious interdependencies of services at the Horton, but they make it very clear that consideration must be given to the provision of antenatal care, travel and parking arrangements and local growth before any final decision is made.”
Cllr Arash Fatemian, Chairman of Oxfordshire’s Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee added: “It has been a difficult and uncertain time and while the IRP has not put forward an immediate solution, a restart of the consultation process will afford us the opportunity to have our voices genuinely heard.
“I call on the CCG to recognise the importance of the messages laid down by IRP. This is a chance for the CCG’s new leadership to embrace the issue and move forward constructively.
“We will leave no stone unturned to get the best outcome for residents of Banbury and surrounding areas.”
But in a statement on its Facebook page, KTHG said the IRP report, ‘falls short of key recommendations the campaign group was hoping would be made’.
While promising a further report after a more detailed look at the report it lists five initial concerns, notably that there will be no full review of the downgrade of maternity as there was ten years ago when consultant led maternity was last threatened.
It says a full review would have gone further in its examination of all the relevant evidence in order to make a judgement that the CCG would have to abide by.
And it added that the IRP is effectively leaving the CCG to its own devices in terms of the final decision for maternity, in spite of significant evidence that it would be unsafe to leave vast, semi-rural population without reasonable access to obstetric services.
The other concerns, listed on the official Save our Horton Facebook page, highlight other areas where it believes the report does not go far enough.
KTHG’s conerns were echoed by Chipping Norton district councillor Laetisia Carter who said today, Thursday: “Although this is a victory of sorts the criticism of the IPR is of the process not the decision.
“The huge funding deficit faced by the NHS has not gone away. The funding shortfall is the catalyst for this decision to take services away from the Horton and needs to be acknowledged by our local MPs Victoria Prentis and Robert Courts.
Taking away obstetrics and other services from The Horton has had a huge impact on residents here in Chipping Norton and in the surrounding villages. The plan to move services to the John Radcliffe have caused huge anxiety.
“I have spoken to patients and staff at the JR who confirm that the services cannot absorb the extra volume of patients.
“We are more isolated as a town especially in extreme winter weather. When you need to get to the hospital in an emergency you really feel this pressure. The NHS needs more investment and we as a rural community need to be heard.”