Court of Appeal to hear campaigners’ case against Horton downgrade consultation

The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143655009
The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143655009

An appeal against the High Court’s decision to dismiss the legal challenge over bed closures at Horton General Hospital will be heard at the Court of Appeal tomorrow (Thursday, March 14)

Keep the Horton General (KTHG) is arguing against the decision in 2017 that Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (OCCG) consultation on the downgrade was not unlawful.

KTHG chairman Keith Strangwood said: “For 25 years this campaign group has been fighting to retain the full range of district general hospital services for the rapidly growing Banbury catchment.

“This flawed consultation was the first step in huge regional changes to the NHS and it started by a downgrade of essential services at the Banbury hospital.

“Called the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan it presented permanent loss of full maternity, closure of 45 acute medical beds, loss of gynaecology and special care baby unit and downgrade of intensive care as positive steps.

“Nowhere in the consultation were the negative aspects mentioned. The CCG failed to have anything ‘in situ’ in the community to take the place of the beds. The community’s views were obtained without full transparency.

“We feel the principle of clear and adequate consultation must be preserved.”

KTHG was an interested party in a legal challenge by a number of district councils to a consultation carried out by OCCG on proposed changes to services at the Banbury hospital.

On December 7, 2017, the High Court ruled that the consultation carried out by the Oxfordshire CCG was not unlawful.

KTHG campaign group is appealing the High Court’s decision on the same grounds as heard in the High Court.

The first is on the hospital’s failure to address the interdependency between permanent bed closures and community provision.

Secondly the hospital not properly consulting on new NHS England policy relating to bed closures.

The third is in relation to the lawful ruling of OCCG’s failure to set out both pros and cons of the bed closures.

Finally the late admission of new evidence on the final day of the High Court hearing, despite it being requested months earlier.

Rowan Smith, solicitor at Leigh Day who is representing KTHG, said: “The KTHG group have campaigned tirelessly to ensure that the community is given a proper say in the changes to provisions at Horton General.

“At a time when hospital beds are in short supply and waiting lists are growing, the group believe it was inconceivable that the CCG omitted to give the local community a balanced picture as to the need to keep beds open.

“The group argue that the consultation on bed closures by Oxfordshire CCG was unlawful and will present their evidence to the Court of Appeal on Thursday.

“It is only right that the campaign group has sought further scrutiny of the significant changes to healthcare provision in Banbury, and we trust that the Court of Appeal will agree with our client that the CCG’s decision in relation to bed closures ought to be revisited immediately for the benefit of all patients and users of the Horton General and surrounding areas.”

The consultation was launched on January 16, 2017, and sought views on proposed changes to services.

The consultation was split into two phases with phase one looking at changes to acute stroke services and home care in Oxfordshire and critical care, planned care and maternity services at the Horton General Hospital.

Phase two related to A&E departments in Oxfordshire, children’s services and community hospitals, and was due to be scheduled for late 2017 before being abandoned by OCCG.

OCCG did not wish to comment before the hearing.