Campaigners’ efforts pay off as Horton changes to get new hearing

The fighting spirit  - one of the many occasions Banburyshire has turned out to support its hospital, this was July 2016
The fighting spirit - one of the many occasions Banburyshire has turned out to support its hospital, this was July 2016

Months of effort by campaigners and councillors has resulted in the Horton maternity downgrade being looked at again.

A report by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) has called for a new examination of evidence used to justify moving consultant-led maternity from Banbury to Oxford.

And this week it was agreed a ‘super HOSC’ (health and overview scrutiny committee) would be formed to re-examine the process.

It means councillors in Warwickshire and Northamptonshire will now get a say in plans for Banbury services their residents have traditionally used.

But campaigners and some politicians urged caution over too much expectation about the possible outcome.

This week, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s new chief, Lou Patten, explained to stakeholders how the re-evaluation would work.

“The local authorities will now need to come together as a Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC)... that can oversee it from a very early stage, not as a fait accompli, (but) much more about ‘have we got this right?’

“At the point that we engage the JHOSC we are required to set out our plan and timescale to the Secretary of State and the IRP Panel.

“They need to check we’ve taken into account all their recommendations and that we’re doing it correctly.”

The next stage would be ensuring key stakeholders and public groups were heard, she said.

Cllr Andrew McHugh said if the super-HOSC was not satisfied it could refer the matter back yet again to Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt.

The Keep the Horton General campaign group is pursuing legal action in a bid to get consultation on downgrading of the Horton repeated as a single exercise.

Its lawyers, Leigh Day, said: “We very much welcome the IRP’s recognition that phase one and phase two services are interdependent.

“All through the legal process, we’ve pressed for a consultation proposal which deals holistically with all of the hospital’s services.

“The IRP’s advice that further work needs to be done before a final decision is made adds weight to our call for a fresh rolled up consultation.

“This issue remains live in the appeal.”