MPs furious, campaigners not giving up after Horton downgrade confirmed

Victoria Prentis MP, Cllr Arash Fatemian, Robert Courts MP and Professor George Smith at the OCCG board meeting.
Victoria Prentis MP, Cllr Arash Fatemian, Robert Courts MP and Professor George Smith at the OCCG board meeting.

Campaigners, councillors and MPs expressed their disappointment and anger after the decision was taken to downgrade maternity and critical care services at the Horton General Hospital today (Thursday, August 10).

North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis said she is ‘furious’ with the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) board for approving the proposals set out in its Phase One Transformation Programme, while West Oxfordshire MP Robert Courts said the decision was rushed.

North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis speaking at the OCCG board meeting.

North Oxfordshire MP Victoria Prentis speaking at the OCCG board meeting.

Keith Strangwood, chairman of campaign group Keep the Horton General, felt the board had ignored the public and made the wrong choice but added the fight is not over with hope the plans will be overruled by review.

“It’s a huge disappointmet as they pretty much none of the board apart from Louise Wallace spoke up for our area,” he said.

“They seemed to make the decision before they came to the meeting and it’s a shame the MP couldn’t interject more during the meeting herself.

“But we’ve got the judicial review coming up in September and the Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee’s (JHOSC) referral too so it’s not the end, we’re right in the middle of a fight.

“If they think this is the end and start knocking down the maternity ward then the Secretary of State overturns it, then they’ll have to build a whole new building which would be brand new so that’s one way to look at it

“The only way we can stop this is through people power and the people of Oxfordshire, Warwickshire and South Northamptonshire need to stand up and say ‘no’.”

After the meeting, Mrs Prentris said her and other Horton supporters were ignored by the board, as she feels they have been from the start, but pledged to keep fighting to keep acute services in Banbury and urged constituents not to give up hope.

“The board’s decision to approve proposals in the Transformation Programme consultation comes as no surprise,” she said.

“I am furious. Public consultation has been meaningless.”

The Conservative MP said there are a number of areas which remain unclear, including whether the Horton will keep its static ambulance, how people without a car use the JR, the impact on patients’ families, or staff’s future.

Chipping Norton’s MP, Mr Courts, was just as angry as his Conservative colleague as downgrading services in Banbury will affect his constituents too.

The first phase of the consultation, which ran from January to April this year, put forward proposals for the future of health services in Oxfordshire.

It was met with widespread opposition, particularly in the north of the county, with many people concerned about the future of the Horton General Hospital and patient safety.

Even in its own conclusions from the consultation, the CCG accepted: “There are almost universal concerns and a lack of support for the proposal to close the obstetric unit at the Horton General Hospital and replace it with a Midwife Led Unit”.

Banbury and Bicester Conservatives added: “Moving forward with these proposals shows no regard for process and, more worryingly, ignores public opinion and the genuine and legitimate concerns expressed by the some 10,000 residents who responded to the consultation.”

JHOSC chairman Cllr Arash Fatemain said he hoped the reviews made the right decision and overrulled the CCG.

“I’m thoroughly disappointed by the decision taken today for maternity services. I think the JHOSC recommendations were more than fair and I am frustrated these have not been taken into account,” he said.

“The referral process will start as we draft the letter to the Secretary of State over the next few days and I will be writing to the chair and Chief Executive of the Board to warn him that no action should be taken to confirm today’s decision before the referral process is concluded.”

Cherwell District Council Labour group leader Cllr Sean Woodcock slammed the OCCG's decision.

"The decision to downgrade services at the Horton Hospital is the wrong one," he said.

"The issues around traffic, parking and capacity at the JR have not been fixed. In fact if anything the evidence for them grows more stark.

"Banbury and the wider area has been let down by this decision. Now is the time for our Member of Parliament to use ALL of her influence and power to get this decision overturned.

"Meanwhile, the crisis in NHS funding, configuration and recruitment needs to be sorted and this government has repeatedly fell short.