Health fears over future of Horton Hospital highlighted by watchdog

The Horton General Hospital campaigners, councillors and general public. NNL-171207-141804001
The Horton General Hospital campaigners, councillors and general public. NNL-171207-141804001

The spotlight on health services in Banbury is continuing as the county’s watchdog highlighted the public concerns about the future.

Healthwatch Oxfordshire launched its annual report on Tuesday and said protests over health services showed how much concern there was over future provision.

It claimed the public response to changes to health services proposed in the Transformation consultation, such as the permanent removal of obstetric services from Banbury’s Horton Hospital, demonstrate how deep-seated the public’s concern is.

Rosalind Pearce, executive director, added: “Health and care services have been undergoing huge change, with the first phase of the Transformation consultation complete, and the second phase to come next year.

“While this has been going on, we have continued to gather the experiences of people who use those services, and what they have told us, in the main, is that while they are largely happy with the quality of the care they receive, certain aspects of the system, including waiting times, continue to be a cause for concern.”

Healthwatch’s report emerged in the same week the Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUHT) board was due to discuss its finances – at a meeting held on Wednesday.

NHS Improvement, which supports organisations which provide NHS-funded care, is conducting an investigation into OUHT’s finances.

The investigation follows overspending by the trust over the past year to the tune of £5.6million on pay and £19million on non-pay items.

The OUHT was notified of the investigation on May 31 and is waiting for further information.

A spokesman from NHS Improvement said: “NHS Improvement launched an investigation into the finances of Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in May 2017.

“This was due to the trust’s deteriorating financial performance compared to its plan, from January to March this year.

“The purpose of the investigation, which is ongoing, is to determine whether the trust needs support to return to a financially sustainable position, and if so, what form that support should take.”

In a separate development, the group responsible for overseeing the consultation on changes to health services in the county, including the downgrading of the Horton, saw the resignation of two of its key members.

Dr Joe McManners, clinical chair of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), and David Smith, OCCG chief executive, are stepping down from their roles.

Dr McManners has decided not to seek re-election to the post in February 2018 and will be standing down as soon as a successor has been appointed while Mr Smith plans to retire from his role at the end of December. He has been at the helm of the OCCG since 2014.

North Oxfordshire MP, Victoria Prentis, has called for the consultation to be suspended as Mr Smith would be leaving half way through the county’s transformation plan process.

She said: “My constituents and I are still waiting for decisions to be made regarding the Phase One consultation. It had been anticipated that Phase Two would start at the end of this year. I am not sure how a change in management will affect this. I remain concerned about the future of health services in Oxfordshire, particularly in the north of the county.

“David Smith and Dr McManners had a key role in compiling the consultation document yet they won’t be around to see any of the changes through. The consultation process must be stopped. While such uncertainty could delay matters further, I am hopeful that a change in leadership may allow the opportunity for a new vision for health services, ensuring that they remain safe, kind and close to home. The Horton General Hospital remains my number one priority.”

The Healthwatch report is available to read or download from Healthwatch Oxfordshire’s website at