Councils launch legal challenge to Horton Hospital downgrade

The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143655009
The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143655009

A legal challenge has been made to the “confusing and flawed” consultation over plans to downgrade Banbury’s Horton General Hospital.

Cherwell District Council yesterday (Thursday) filed an application for a judicial review into how Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) consulted with the public over changes to services including maternity, critical care and hospital bed use.

Keith Strangwood, chairman of the Keep the Horton General Campaign

Keith Strangwood, chairman of the Keep the Horton General Campaign

The challenge has been led by CDC along with co-claimants South Northamptonshire Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Banbury Town Council, with support from the Keep the Horton General (KTHG) campaign group.

OCCG said it had received a letter confirming the action and “will respond appropriately”.

Ian Davies, interim joint chief executive of Cherwell and South Northamptonshire Councils, said: “Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has carried out a two-phase consultation into plans to downgrade key services at the Horton General Hospital. This approach has proved incredibly confusing and those who will be most affected by any changes – namely the residents of Banbury and surrounding areas – are still unsure as to exactly what is happening to their local hospital.

“For over two months we have struggled to help local people understand the implications of what is being consulted on and we have tried to answer the real concerns of real people. But there is still widespread confusion. We know the Horton General Hospital is a very valued and accessible hospital to people in north Oxfordshire, south Northamptonshire and parts of the Stratford district who regard it as their “local” hospital of choice.

“These proposals have significant and permanent implications for future access to local services. Therefore we consider it entirely unacceptable that the OCCG is trying to move ahead with plans which have not been fully understood by those who will suffer the consequences.”

Keith Strangwood, KTHG chairman, said: “I am relieved to be able to tell the world what we are doing. We had been advised by our legal advisors to keep our plans under wraps. Now we can formally say the gloves are off. KTHG will fight every inch of the way to keep full services at our beloved Horton hospital.”

The OCCG is consulting on the first phase a proposed transformation to the way healthcare is delivered across the county. This inlcudes permanently replacing the consultant-led midwife unit at the Horton with just midwives, taking the most serious critical care patients and all stroke cases directly to Oxford, and permanently closing almost 200 beds between the Horton and Oxford hospitals.

A second phase of consultation, which includes primary care and community hospitals, is planned for later this year.

CDC said a decision on whether the case would proceed to the High Court is expected next month.