Banbury’s Horton group launches birthplace survey

Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143901009
Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143901009

Horton General Hospital campaign group Keep the Horton General has launched a birthplace survey.

The purpose of the questionnaire is to discover where women of child bearing age want to have their babies, if consultant-led maternity was returned to Banbury.

Speaking for KTHG, chairman Keith Strangwood, said: “This is an important study.

“It may sound a simple question but ‘patient choice’ is a big element of NHS promise at the moment. We have heard the head of women’s services at the JR saying thousands of women are ‘choosing’ to go to Oxford to give birth.

“But we know women have accepted they must go there for safety. Few choose to.

“We want to find out where women want to give birth if they had real choice.”

Mr Strangwood said the only choice for women was the midwife-only unit in Banbury – with the associated risk if complications occurred – or Oxford, Warwick or Northampton.

“There’s no option that is easily accessible in labour for the women of north Oxfordshire, south Northants or south Warwickshire,” he said.

“Expectant mothers did have choice when we had obstetrics in Banbury and they chose the Horton.

“Now that the Horton HOSC committee is reviewing the downgrade of the Horton maternity department and how it was conducted, KTHG believes the councillors need to hear from mothers themselves about where they want to deliver and how many would use a reinstated service in Banbury.”

Mr Strangwood said the group was concerned that the annual birth numbers at the Horton had been distorted and eroded over recent years to make the unit appear unviable.

“The goalposts were changed. Women who wanted to give birth at the Horton were told they could not because of certain conditions that were always managed safely at the Horton in the past.

“We believe it was a cynical ploy to gradually make the Horton appear to have dwindling birth numbers.

“The fact is the numbers were growing and it was used as an overflow for the JR birth unit.

“Everything we have heard since the 2016 downgrade has shown that the JR is not coping.

“It does not have enough staff and our research shows women are having unacceptable birth experiences.”

The Horton Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HHOSC) meets on Monday for the second of its sessions investigating the evidence used to remove obstetrics from the Horton and the viability of future options for maternity in Banbury.

The consultant-led maternity unit was closed after Oxford University Hospitals said it could not recruit sufficient doctors to staff it.

At the last HHOSC in September a new option for the future of maternity at the Horton was suggested – a consultant-led unit with a midwife delivery suite running alongside.

The KTHG survey is designed to give the HHOSC the preferences of women in the Horton catchment.

Mr Strangwood said women aged 15 to 51 may complete the easy survey by going to the group’s Facebook page and the KTHG main website.

See www.keepthehortongeneral.org to fill in the survey.

“We will be watching very closely the OCCG process for its own future survey on this subject,” he added.

A publicly elected OUH governor for Cherwell, he said his views were not those of the board but of KTHG.