Claims of ‘crisis’ after Horton maternity ward overnight suspension

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 campaigners say there is a crisis in maternity provision across the whole county because of staff shortages at the John Radcliffe Hospital (JR).

Oxford University Hospitals Foundation NHS Trust (OUH) admitted it had stopped all home births and deliveries at midwife units last night (Thursday) because of a ‘peak in demand’ at the JR.

Keep the Horton General (KTHG) chairman Keith Strangwood said it was because midwives do not want to work at the Oxford hospital.

“If it’s a peak in demand it’s one thing, but they should have been expecting it and ensured they had enough midwives,” he said.

“But if it comes down to shortage of staff at the JR, which appears to be at dangerous levels, then we could see the John Radcliffe closed on safety grounds like the Horton was.

“This just proves once again that we need the Horton consultant led maternity unit, fully operational.

“The JR just can’t cope and it’s very clear they can’t recruit enough staff.

“Many midwives left the trust when the Horton was downgraded because they didn’t want to work at the JR.

“People are resigning and there are high levels of stress and people off sick there.

“It’s hardly surprising that staff are leaving - staff at the highest levels are leaving the OUH.”

Rosalie Wright, director of midwifery at the trust, said: “On Monday, September 17, a midwife from the Horton midwifery led unit (MLU) was moved to the John Radcliffe Hospital due to a peak in demand.

“The MLU remained open all night and was staffed by a maternity support worker, as well as being covered by the on-call midwives from Banbury and Bicester.

“No women were sent from the Horton MLU to the John Radcliffe Hospital.

“Last night (Thursday) we made the clinical decision to suspend home births and midwifery-led services across the county to support a peak in activity at the John Radcliffe Hospital.

“Our staffing situation remains difficult as we are currently still waiting for all our new recruits to be fully ready to join the team.

“The situation is being kept under regular review, but we hope to be able to support women wishing to use our midwifery led units or wanting a home birth whenever possible.

“No women presented who wanted to give birth in a community MLU or at home, however a small number of women were not able to have their first choice of birthing on the Spires.

“They were instead supported through our main delivery suite at the John Radcliffe Hospital which has a room with a pool.

“On both occasions, these decisions were deemed necessary to maintain safe, high quality one-to-one care for all women.”