GP says Horton downgrade plans are ‘foolhardy, dangerous and short-sighted’

Catriona and James Reid NNL-160620-104905001
Catriona and James Reid NNL-160620-104905001

A trainee GP has put full support behind a campaign to save maternity, children’s services and A&E at the Horton General Hospital, Banbury.

Dr Catriona Reid an expectant mum from Hanwell says her experiences as both doctor and patient at the John Radcliffe, Oxford have committed her to the fight to protect services at the Horton.

“The Horton services a growing town population of over 100,000 as well as the surrounding area,” she said.

“To my knowledge neither obstetrics nor paediatrics have ever been subject to significant safety concerns and demand has not decreased in recent years – in fact quite the opposite.

“I would be devastated to lose the obstetric-led services at the Horton. My nearest alternative unit, not necessarily one I would be given the option to go to, would be Warwick at 22 miles away.

“More likely I would be offered the John Radcliffe 28 miles away, a nightmare to get to by private or public transport and little easier for 999 vehicles. It is a hospital I have had unpleasant experiences at as a doctor and a patient.”

Dr Reid, whose pregnancy is classed as ‘low risk’ should, under the Oxford University Hospitals Trust’s options for downgrading maternity, be able to give birth in a stand-alone midwife-led unit, without consultants present.

“I am classed as low risk and hope I will be able to rely on midwives to safely deliver my offspring. However, I am also a well-informed realist and I know how quickly and dramatically problems in labour can arise,” she said.

“The NHS aims to deliver choice to all women and knowing what I know and having seen what I have seen, working in delivery suites from both the obstetric and the neonatal perspective, I would never be able to make the decision to deliver anywhere that didn’t have an obstetric team on site who could act immediately in case of an emergency.

“An ambulance transfer to another hospital is dependent upon the availability of an ambulance and would still entail an absolute minimum of half an hour in transit, even with blue lights.

“Babies and mothers can and will die in that time. It is also possible a midwife-led unit would not be able to provide an epidural as a pain-relief option so any transfer would be undertaken while the woman was in immeasurable discomfort.

“To leave an area the size of north Oxfordshire without an obstetric service would be foolhardy, dangerous and short-sighted.”

Dr Reid said information provided in anti-natal care told her the midwife-led unit in Chipping Norton transfers 36 to 45 per cent of first time mothers to hospital as needing consultant care.

“I have no reason to think this rate would be any different if services at the Horton were to be midwifery led.

“As a professional and an expectant mum I have great respect for midwives and the work they do but I’m sure they would be the first to admit to their limitations – and many required interventions, including assisted delivery and caesarean sections, require a qualified doctor to step in.”

Dr Reid said she feared expectant mothers’ work commitments and the distance to Oxford for specialist anti-natal care may deter them from appointments, affecting the safety of their pregnancy.

“Delivery problems do not always end with the birth and I question whether a lady suffering a secondary haemorrhage at home would have to endure an uncomfortable and life-threatening ambulance transfer to a unit tens of miles away,” she said.

“Any baby delivered in a midwife led-unit would be without access to a special care baby unit. Having worked in SCBU at Wexham Park Hospital in Slough at least half of the babies there were born at full term and had problems that could not have been foreseen.

“I would also have safety concerns if my nearest paediatric services were 30 miles away. Children fall ill very quickly and we would be back to the issue of significant travel times impacting on the potential outcome for a child.”

“I doubt the maternity or paediatric departments at the John Radcliffe have such significant spare capacity that a further 1,500 deliveries per year could be absorbed without staffing and safety concerns arising,” she said.

“Having a local service allows for a more personal level of care and continuity in both maternity and paediatric services that cannot be replicated by the larger hospitals.”