Hospital insider says not enough effort made to staff Horton maternity

The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143719009
The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-160706-143719009

Not enough serious effort was made to recruit doctors to keep full Horton General Hospital maternity ward open, it has been claimed.

A source close to the John Radcliffe Hospital said although the trust used a variety of methods to recruit nurses and midwives, attempts to recruit doctors were limited.

Sophie Hammond had a traumatic experience giving birth at the Horton and believes if she had be transferred to the JR she would have died NNL-181221-101001001

Sophie Hammond had a traumatic experience giving birth at the Horton and believes if she had be transferred to the JR she would have died NNL-181221-101001001

The lack of doctors resulted in obstetrics being moved to Oxford in October 2016.

“A recruitment head went to India searching for nurses and settlement visas are being given to EU nurses but for doctors there is nothing,” the source claimed.

“For nursing and midwifery (the trust) would promote open days, job fairs, visit universities and use social media but with doctors there is no activity – just adverts on websites.”

Bosses at Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said they constantly reviewed recruitment and staff turnover had gone down.

A recruitment head went to India searching for nurses and settlement visas are being given to EU nurses but for doctors there is nothing.

But the Banbury Guardian source claimed obstetric doctors were not given the same incentives as other disciplines such as neurosurgery and orthopaedics.

The source said lack of enhancements meant appointed candidates were attracted to other trusts or OUH would have to offer equivalents at up to £30,000 additional pay.

“The trust is not using its potential ‘brand image’ as a marketing strategy to attract doctors in terms of connections with the best university on earth, funding from government for research, links with the USA and the most technological centres in Europe and Japan.

“There is an inertia because it is millions of pounds in deficit.

“It is easier to close Horton (acute services) and run operations from the JR – more cost effective and saving on admin.

“It compromises patients but when the CEO is questioned he is showing results which appear to be getting better.”

OUH midwives are also taking on agency shifts to cover rotas at the JR because of the staff shortage caused by low salary, cost of living and long shifts.

John Drew, OUH director of culture and improvement, said: “Our recruitment policies and procedures are constantly reviewed to keep them to a high standard to enable us to recruit the staff we need, who share our values of compassionate excellence in a difficult recruitment market.

“Recruitment at all OUH sites is a key priority for the trust and one of our main focuses now and moving forward.

“We’ve also seen staff turnover reduce over the last year and as a result we have over 130 more staff at the start of this year compared to last year.

“Our trust has a Freedom to Speak Up Guardian to give independent support and advice to staff who want to raise concerns.

“Guardians work with all staff to help the trust become a more open and transparent place, allowing employees to ‘speak up’ in a safe and confidential way.

“We have a lead guardian and local guardians available to support staff on all our sites.”

Sophie Hammond, of Keep the Horton General campaign group, wants the Horton Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) to ensure everything is done to fill vacancies.

“KTHG hopes the Horton HOSC will scrutinise in depth the trust’s recruitment attempts and put pressure on the trust to do more than just advertise for the obstetric posts,” she said.

“The trust needs to be reminded that back when the temporary downgrade was agreed, the board instructed senior managers to be more proactive in their efforts to recruit.

“They have completely ignored this in failing to produce any kind of recruitment strategy to date, especially in light of the varied efforts and inducements that apparently go into recruiting for other specialisms.”