Councillors tasked with reviewing health services in Oxfordshire are to grill hospital managers over their plans to remove most maternity cases from the Horton this weekend.
Keep the Horton General (KTHG) campaigners will be at the meeting tomorrow (Friday) to try to convince the Oxfordshire Health and Overview Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) to refer the decision to the Secretary of State.
Campaigner Charlotte Bird said: “The people who will be adversely affected the most by the decision to centralise services in Oxford are the poor, those on benefits and those that inhabit the three areas of nationally acknowledged high deprivation in Banbury.
“It is simply iniquitous and high-handed of those privileged few in Oxford to decimate the lives of those people who live elsewhere. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) thought so too in 2008.
“Who are the current custodians of the OUHFT to bring this calamity upon those less fortunate than themselves who will suffer the most?”
It was HOSC that was critical in saving Horton specialist services in 2006-08 when councillors referred plans for a full downgrade to the Secretary of State for Health.
A subsequent review by the IRP declared that ways must be found to preserve services because of the distance to the JR Hospital in Oxford and the need for safety of sick children and adults.
It is understood the last HOSC meeting on September 15 called for more information from Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUH) amid serious concerns about the duration of arrangements for the ambulance transfer of women suffering complications during delivery at the midwife-only unit that will replace consultant-led maternity from this weekend.
Campaigners and Banbury’s MP, Victoria Prentis hope that tomorrow’s meeting results in another referral to the Secretary of State.
Among those given an opportunity to speak to the committee are KTHG chairman Keith Strangwood who will remind HOSC that a final decision to remove consultant-led maternity could result in loss of life.
“Such a decision and the consequences of it shouldn’t rest with the HOSC. The consequence will stay with them forever. Such a decision should rest with (Secretary of State) Jeremy Hunt,” said Mr Strangwood.
It is understood that if the decision is referred to Mr Hunt he would be obliged to refer it to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel, which has been made aware of the latest attempt to downgrade Horton acute services.
“The IRP is qualified and equipped precisely to rule on these matters,” said KTHG member Peter McLoughlin.
Those speaking will address the issue of added pressure on the staff and facilities at the JR. The OUH has been converting non-medical rooms into wards to accommodate the 1,000 to 1,200 births that will be sent for delivery from Banbury which will be extra to the approximately 7,000 taking place every year in Oxford.
Senior midwife Sarah Ayre will speak from the viewpoint of midwives. Banbury area GPs have also written to HOSC to reiterate their wholehearted opposition to loss of consultant maternity.
The OUH says the move is temporary and is caused by an inability to recruit the middle grade obstetric doctors needed to support consultants in keeping the specialist maternity service in operation.