Could GPs be answer to Horton maternity unit future?

Dr. Hugh Gillies NNL-170703-154625009
Dr. Hugh Gillies NNL-170703-154625009

A new proposal to secure a full maternity service at the Horton General Hospital in Banbury involves GPs performing caesarean operations.

The GP option will be discussed along with a Cherwell District Council-inspired plan to establish a full obstetric service with an ‘alongside’ midwife-led birth unit.

Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143824009

Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143824009

The two ideas are among nine to be examined by a new Horton Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee which meets tomorrow (Friday).

Local GP Dr Hugh Gillies said: “GPs are not a safe alternative to experienced middle grade obstetricians.

“It’s not a viable option and anyway, there would not be enough GPs to cover 24 hours a day.

“I don’t think it would be an attractive option to GPs.”

The plan brief says there would be obstetric units at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford and the Horton.

The staffing model at the Banbury hospital would be local GPs given extra training to be able to perform caesarean sections, with access to on-call support from the JR.

Keep the Horton General chairman Keith Strangwood, whose group has submitted a dossier of information to the Horton HOSC, said the only solution is a return to full obstetrics in Banbury.

“If this GP idea was a serious suggestion it would mean GPs learning to perform caesarean operations at the start of training and we don’t have that time,” he said.

“Already expectant mums are suffering psychological effects of not being able to give birth locally and it needs to be sorted out quickly with a full obstetric service returned to Banbury.

“I hope the councillors will refer the obstetrics with an alongside midwife unit plan to the Secretary of State but we have to expect that a decision by him will take months.”

The first meeting of the Horton Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee – the ‘Super’ HOSC – is at Banbury Town Hall at 2pm.

The HOSC has been formed to include councillors from south Warwickshire and south Northants who were left out of consultation on downgrading the Horton General Hospital last year.

Their patients and GPs were not asked their views by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG).

A referral of the closure of the consultant-led maternity unit to the Secretary of State for Health led to advice from the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (which ‘saved’ the Horton from total downgrade in 2008) that a scrutiny committee including all catchment areas should be formed.

The resulting Horton HOSC will re-examine all the evidence used by OCCG and the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust to justify replacement of the full maternity service by a midwife-only unit in October, 2016.