Mum slams Trust over Horton recruitment failure

The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit,  Banbury.
The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, Banbury.

Efforts to recruit doctors for the Horton’s maternity department have been ‘shambolic’ and need to be investigated by the Care Quality Commission, a campaigner says.

Sophie Bidwell said Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUH) appeared unable to undertake ‘basic tasks’ such as advertising, even after an emergency meeting of the Trust Board had been promised it had made strenuous efforts to recruit and would continue to do so.

Mrs Bidwell, of Banbury, whose life was saved by Horton consultants when she suffered a major haemorrhage while giving birth last year, has been a vocal opponent of the OUH’s plan to replace consultant-led obstetrics with a midwife-only unit from October 2.

The move would mean a 25-mile dash to the JR, Oxford for any mother developing life-threatening complications during delivery.

The OUH says it has advertised but failed to appoint essential middle grade doctors and has no alternative to moving births to Oxford for reasons of safety. It says the move is temporary and the full service would be reinstated when posts have been filled.

Mrs Bidwell wrote to clinical director Paul Brennan last week complaining there was no trace of any advertisements in the British Medical Journal or NHS Jobs websites.

“I would like to know why advertising has ceased? If there are still vacancies, I am sure those on the board who questioned the effort being put into recruitment during last week’s meeting will be particularly interested to know why there are no adverts for these posts on two of the most relevant job websites for medical professions.

“Scarcely a week has passed since the decision to temporarily downgrade the Horton’s maternity unit and close Special Care Baby Unit.

“At the meeting you said you would not stop trying to (recruit), indeed you would redouble your efforts. If the posts are still vacant I’m afraid it will appear to the general public, once again, as though the Trust is saying one thing and doing quite another.”

Mr Brennan’s one-line reply said the Trust would respond to all stakeholders rather than responding to individual requests.

Mrs Bidwell replied: “This shambolic, meagre effort to recruit is wholly unacceptable and I hope sincerely this is investigated by the Care Quality Commission as well as the national media.

“An independent consultant needs to be brought in to oversee recruitment of doctors, since you appear unable to undertake such basic tasks as actually advertising the posts.

“I do not believe it is unreasonable for the Trust to be asked to provide weekly public updates concerning the number of adverts and locations of these, in addition to the number of interviews and job offers, if it has nothing to hide,” she wrote.

“The only way the Trust is going to salvage any goodwill from Banbury is by being transparent and following up its claimed commitment to retaining obstetrics at the Horton, with the necessary action to do so.”

The Trust’s efforts to recruit were previously criticised by Banbury MP Victoria Prentis, who said: “I firmly believe the Trust could have done more to recruit enough consultants. I really hope this decision is short term and the recruitment process will continue so that a full service can resume as soon as possible.”