Banburyshire politicians took a hard line against hospital bosses on plans which could rid the Horton General Hospital of its core services.
MPs Victoria Prentis, Andrea Leadsom (south Northants) and Banbury Town Council leader Cllr Kieron Mallon left Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUH) in no doubt that the growing population cannot manage without acute services in Banbury.
At a stakeholders’ meeting last Friday Mrs Leadsom expressed intense displeasure that managers had not informed her of a new policy to accept only women from OX postcodes (and Brackley) for birth at the JR, Oxford.
Mrs Prentis told the trust and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) that the ‘shoe must not be sacrificed for want of a nail’ while Mr Mallon challenged the trust’s calculations for the increase in the catchment relying on the Horton – given the vast house-building programme agreed in Cherwell and south Northants.
Mrs Leadsom said: “This is the biggest public service issue in my postbag, bar none.
“I was not aware the obstetric service was not available (to my constituents) at the JR until now. It is absolutely shocking that I’m not even able to give my constituents information on it.”
Mrs Leadsom said she had only gone along with the closure of Brackley Cottage Hospital last year because services were available at the Horton as a fully functioning hospital.
Paul Brennan, director of clinical services, said the information had been available in the papers for the OUH board’s AGM. Mrs Leadsom said: “That is not good enough at all. I hope you are not suggesting I should trawl various papers I’ve never heard of to find information about my own constituency.”
Head of planning, Andrew Stevens said the rule was meant to protect capacity at the JR for local women.
Mrs Leadsom said she hoped OCCG managers were not planning cuts on the basis that the Horton can only survive if it replicates what the JR does.
“I hope the fate of the Horton doesn’t rest on whether it matches up to the JR or not,” she said. “Around 60,000 of my constituents rely on the Horton and there are many more in the Stratford constituency. Our constituents have a massive stake on what happens at the Horton.”
Mr Mallon said: “At Cherwell District Council we estimate 200,000 people use Banbury for retail and for employment and for health, the figures are pretty much the same. The geography of Banbury goes against us. Figures for transport assessments and now hospitals do not take into account areas where counties meet. We need to look at figures overall that you are using.”
Mr Mallon said with projected growth it would not be long before at least 2,000 babies would be born at the Horton per year, under an obstetric service that has served the town well until October 3.
Mrs Prentis said it would not be difficult to convince mothers from Bicester and other areas to give birth at the Horton to improve numbers.
She said: “(Permanent) loss of obstetrics would mean loss of all services. We are fearful of the domino effect.”
Post Graduate Dean Dr Michael Bannon, attending to explain doctor training programmes, said: “With the domino effect, you are right, it will affect paediatrics.”
The Horton is earmarked for downgrading in the OCCG/OUHT’s Sustainabiity and Transformation Plan (STP), part of an NHS bid to cut £22bn by 2020. Public consultation begins after Christmas.