Women with gynaecological problems are to be sent to other counties to ease 40-week Oxfordshire waiting lists.
Managers say the log-jam is a ‘one-off’ initiative caused by a shortage of specialist doctors and lack of theatre space.
Campaigners in Keep the Horton General group say the Banbury inpatient gynae ward should never have been closed.
“It is unthinkable that the current situation could be satisfactory or sustainable and it is a travesty that the OUH could let provision of this crucial service unravel to this appalling state of affairs,” said Sophie Hammond, KTHG spokesman for women’s services.
An OUH briefing says: “Limited theatre capacity and difficulties recruiting appropriate staff have led to a build-up of the waiting list over the last two years. Every effort is being made to improve this situation.
“Progress has been made in reducing the number of women waiting long periods for surgery but outpatient appointment waiting times are still a significant challenge.
“OUH has proposed to divert referrals for conditions including general gynaecology, urogynaecology, endometriosis, menopause, pelvic pain to out-of-county hospitals and independent providers for three months.”
Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group confirmed women who are referred to other hospitals can expect their ongoing treatment to be carried out at that hospital.
The OUH will continue to accept referrals for suspected cancer (two week waits), fertility and recurrent miscarriage.
It says hospitals asked to tatake on its work are Stoke Mandeville, Swindon,Reading, Warwick, Milton Keynes and private hospitals such as the Foscote in Banbury.
Mrs Hammond said: “The 2016 downgrade of the Horton maternity unit spelt the loss of emergency gynaecology.
“Now lack of theatre space and a failure to recruit have been cited as justification for a three month halt in most of the service in Oxfordshire, forcing women to travel outside their local area for attention to what are very sensitive health issues.
“Lack of theatre space cannot be unconnected to the fact that they requisitioned one of the theatres to perform caesareans that would have taken place at the Horton.
“It is going to be very hard for women with families to get to other counties. KTHG would welcome hearing what efforts OUH has made to prevent this.
“It’s high time the trust began to examine properly why doctors don’t want to work for them and started applying lateral thinking and making changes based on lessons learnt. If recruiting to Oxford is part of the problem because of high cost of living, traffic congestion and parking issues then why not reopen the service at the Horton where access, parking and living are easier?”
Mrs Hammond said the partial closure of the service follows significant bed closures cuts and the closure of the Horton’s G-Ward some years ago.
“OUH and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists should have anticipated this through declining training numbers. A lack of forward planning seems to show a colossal lack of foresight,” she said.
“It takes courage for many women to get referred for gynae physio or surgery and far too many women accept problems post-childbirth and with ageing as their ‘lot in life’ or ‘part and parcel of motherhood’.” She described it as ‘a betrayal of the health needs of women by increasing risk and suffering’.