Campaign group wins battle to appeal in Horton downgrade case

The Keep the Horton General Legal team outside the court before the initial hearing: Peter McLoughlin, Dr Peter Fisher, Keith Strangwood and Charlotte Bird NNL-170812-173746001
The Keep the Horton General Legal team outside the court before the initial hearing: Peter McLoughlin, Dr Peter Fisher, Keith Strangwood and Charlotte Bird NNL-170812-173746001

Banbury campaign group Keep the Horton General (KTHG) has won the right to appeal a High Court ruling in the long-running case of the Horton General Hospital downgrading.

The group was given the news this week by its specialist lawyers Leigh Day and KTHG’s QC, Samantha Broadfoot, of Landmark Chambers.

KTHG chairman Keith Strangwood said: “We are delighted that we have won the right to appeal against the decision made by Mr Justice Mostyn in December 2017 into the legality of the consultation process on the downgrade of the Horton General Hospital.

“We were concerned about the process from the start and took legal advice from Leigh Day.

“Our crowdfunding appeal was supported by a vast number of Banburyshire people who were incensed at the threat to the Horton.

“The case was adopted by three district councils, Cherwell, South Northants and Stratford-upon-Avon who were also unhappy about the consultation.

“Keep the Horton General fought equally alongside the councils as a fully- involved ‘interested party’ with our own legal team putting our case – on behalf of our Banburyshire supporters - in the Royal Courts of Justice last December.”

Last year’s consultation – named The Big Consultation – sought the public’s views on Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (OCCG) Oxfordshire Transformation Plan (OTP) which sought to make savings of £200m in the county’s health services by 2020-21.

• The plan included confirmation of permanent closure of 45 medical beds without obligatory consultation in October 2016, permanent closure of the obstetric unit and replacement of the consultant-led maternity service with a midwife-only department, removal of special care baby unit to Oxford and downgrade of the intensive care unit from level three to level two.

• The bed closures were predicated on the development of more ‘hospital at home’ and prevention of ‘bed blocking’. While changing some acute services the CCG planned provision of more diagnostics and outpatient clinics on the Horton site.

• The future of A&E and the children’s ward was to be consulted on in a second phase of the OTP which had been scheduled for late 2017. However OCCG abandoned phase two and said A&E and paediatrics would not be affected.

Within days of the end of the case the High Court judge made various criticisms of OCCG’s process but ruled against the claim of unlawfulness.

The councils at this point said they would not appeal but Mr Strangwood said: “Keep the Horton General was not willing to let it go.

“We were advised by Leigh Day that there was a strong case for appeal and papers were lodged with the Royal Courts of Justice in January.

“We have faced considerable criticism in some quarters for the past ten months for ‘holding up progress’ at the Horton but we have steadfastly believed in our cause and refused to drop the case.

“We have always been convinced we must not give in and had to fight on for the sake of everyone in Banbury and its surrounding catchment area of south Northants and south Warks.

“We believe this decision to give us leave to appeal vindicates us and we will now start the intricate and painstaking process of working with our lawyers to present a convincing case in the appeal process.

“Our fundraising team continues to do brilliant work which adds much needed cash to our fighting fund every month. This news will give them a huge boost.”

Banbury has always been prepared to fight for the Horton. KTHG headed an immense community campaign against a full downgrade of the hospital in 2007.

In early 2008, the Independent Reconfiguration Panel’s recommendation that Banbury services should be protected was accepted by the then-Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson.