Banbury has won an important round in the battle to save services at the Horton.
A deputy High Court judge said opponents of the Horton Hospital’s downgrading should be allowed a full hearing into the lawfulness of the public consultation held before last month’s decision to permanently close 45 beds and remove consultant-led maternity.
Campaigners, who were represented by Leigh Day and Landmark Chambers, thanks to fundraising, hope the hearing – part of a judicial review of the lawfulness of the public consultation – might ultimately lead to the reinstatement of some acute services in Banbury.
Keith Strangwood, chairman of Keep the Horton General (KTHG) said Tuesday’s decision was testament to team working between Cherwell, Stratford and South Northants councils and KTHG.
“The tide is turning. We have won this battle but not the war which has been waged against the Horton for over 20 years.
“We hope, if the full hearing goes in our favour, the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) will be asked to go back to square one and consult on these horrendous downgrading plans in a single exercise.
“That will be a mirror image of the fight in 2007-8 and they lost that because taking acute services to Oxford is too far for patient safety.”
Mr Justice Fraser, at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, said the hearing should be given priority for an early date, before the end of the year, because of the seriousness of the case.
It would also take place before the OCCG presents its controversial second phase of the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan which involves planned changes to A&E and the 24-hour children’s ward.
The councils’ and KTHG’s legal teams expressed serious concerns about the consultation. The judge agreed it was arguable that the consultation process was flawed and it must go forward to a full hearing quickly. The move allows the councils and KTHG to make a formal challenge to the consultation.
The councils and KTHG argued that the consultation was unlawful and unfair because it split phase one, dealing with maternity and bed closures from others, dealing with A&E and paediatrics – that the split timing is illogical and would heavily influence the outcome of phase two which has not started.
If it is found the consultation in phase one was defective and should be run again, it makes sense to be done before phase two. Having the case expedited moves the Horton case up the queue, allowing it to be heard within months rather than up to a year in the busy administrative courts.
Editor’s note: In an earlier version of this story we reported there would be another hearing before the full one - we are pleased to clarify the next part of the process will be that full hearing.