Family battle to keep George close to Banbury

George Parish and fellow campaigners outside Banbury Town Hall celebrating success in the fight to keep the Horton General Hospital's acute services.
George Parish and fellow campaigners outside Banbury Town Hall celebrating success in the fight to keep the Horton General Hospital's acute services.

Banbury folk hero George Parish, the man who led the campaign to save Horton hospital services, is being forced to Oxford for his long-term nursing home needs.

Mr Parish has Alzheimer’s Disease and there is no suitable care for him in Banbury.

Oxfordshire Social Services say they cannot provide a place for him in his home town. Mr Parish’s daughter-in-law, Maria, is liaising with the county council in a bid to keep Mr Parish close to home as his wife does not drive.

“George is currently in Larkrise care home on Bretch Hill but they are unable to meet his needs. Several other homes have also assessed him and come to the same conclusion, “ said Mrs Parish.

“I have done a lot of research on dementia and connecting with family is an important part of his social needs. He still talks about being ‘Rock and Roll Mayor’ and has chatted about past family occasions with family.

“He asks for his wife Sue regularly and if he were moved to Oxford these social needs would not be met as visiting would be limited. Sue has her own health issues which prevent her travelling too far.

“George dedicated much of his adult life to keeping health facilities in Banbury and I know local provision is a cause he would have championed. Last year he was awarded the freedom of the town for his hard work in the community and this year he is being forced out of the town he loves.”

Keith Strangwood, chairman of Keep the Horton General (KTHG), said: “George’s predicament again highlights a possible lack of services 
locally, Keeping services local is imperative for the future well being of north Oxfordshire health service users and what George has been fighting for for two decades. KTHG will be looking very closely into this at its regular meetings. We wish George and his family well.”

An Oxfordshire County Council statement said: “There are occasions where specialist needs involve someone being moved to another part of the county where those needs can be met safely and where they can receive the specialist care they require.”

Cllr Mark Cherry, who now serves the Ruscote, Banbury ward on Cherwell District Council that was George Parish’s patch for a generation, said he was inspired to go into local politics because of the powerful example of selflessness and service to the community shown by Mr Parish.
“Given all the work George did for the Horton General and his council duties he should stay in a care home like Lark Rse which is local so his family and friends can see him regularly. Anything less would be intolerable. But the budgetary pressures on local government play into this. I feel most will agree, George should be in a local care home.

“The specialist dementia care is not available locally which is why the council is looking further a field for the care home to suit George’s needs. This shows there is a shortage of these care places in Banburyshire. I know something about this as my father Donald Cherry passed away in 2011 from the same type of dementia that George suffers. I also know the strain it puts on families.”
George Parish led a long and ultimately successful campaign as chairman of the Banbury Health Emergency group and later Keep the Horton General, to protect acute hospital services for the growing Banburyshire community.

In 2008 he led celebrations as Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced acceptance after an exhaustive review, of a recommendation by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel that Oxford was too far to send patients to satisfy a plan for a full downgrading of maternity and paediatric services at the Horton.

Events showing the overwhelming support for the campaign included protest marches, a demonstration in People’s Park and a ‘ring around the Horton’ when hundreds joined hands around the hospital.

Mr Parish made six visits to Westminster; twice to present petitions to 10, Downing Street - one signed by 30,000 angry protesters at the potential loss of acute hospital services in Banbury.

Mr Parish always insisted the campaign to save services was a cross-party, community move and he welcomed his political opponents to be part of all the triumphs he had helped to achieve.