Mrs Prentis this week described handing Health Lottery tickets to respondents ‘extremely concerning’.
Keep the Horton General (KTHG) members were called to Banbury Town Hall on Friday and Saturday as canvassers from a company called Qa Research asked members of the public who were young, disabled or from ethnic minorities to fill in a questionnaire. The campaigners say they witnessed researchers filling in forms for people, asking them to sign the forms and giving them an NHS lottery ticket in return.
KTHG member Val Ingram said researchers seemed uninformed and told campaigners they believed they were helping to save the Horton.
“I asked their leader who they were working for and she told me the county council. I had to point out that OCCG was Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), not the county council.
“One of the interviewers told us that they were saving the Horton. And one researcher asked a respondent whether we didn’t want a ‘bigger and better hospital’. They clearly had no real information about the downgrade and the effect it would have on Banbury.”
Campaigner Kev Preedy said: “I heard one of the men saying he wasn’t interested in maternity and the interviewer said ‘oh, I’ll put you agree with that then’.”
Chrissie Ansell, also a KTHG member, said: “One gentleman told the interviewer how he wanted to help save the Horton and what a great man George Parish was. He then realised he was making a mistake and said the questionnaire didn’t really apply to him as he lives 25 miles away. But he did sign the questionnaire.”
OCCG, which is consulting on permanent removal of consultant-led maternity, scaling back intensive care and closing medical and trauma beds, said it had employed Qa Research to help get involvement of the whole community.
“The CCG has commissioned Qa Research to support the consultation. We know there will be some sections of the community that might be missed and this is a concern shared by the local MP and is why Qa Research is involved.
“We are concerned to ensure we have heard the views of young people, disabled people and ethnic minorities who might be affected by the proposals.
“Qa Research has considerable experience and expertise in this area and has previously worked in Banbury town centre. They are offering a single Health Lottery ticket (worth £1) as a thank you to anyone prepared to complete the survey and this is a common and acceptable practice.
“The researchers are equipped with consultation documents to support their conversations. They are trained for this type of work and are all clear that they are conducting this work on behalf of the local NHS.”
Mrs Prentis said: “At no point have I suggested that (reaching under-represented sections of the community) should be done by instructing a private company to stand in the middle of Banbury High Street and specifically target people between 16 - 24 years old, ethnic minorities or those with a disability, while turning away other willing participants. Reports that those who did take part were offered Health Lottery tickets as an incentive are extremely concerning.”
Keith Strangwood, chairman of KTHG, said: “The CCG may call this an incentive, we could call it a bribe. You have to know what is really in the 500-page plan to take £200m out of Oxfordshire’s health system to realise that the questions in this survey are completely loaded towards agreeing to the Horton becoming a day care centre and centralising all our essential acute services at the JR
“The difficulty for us has been letting everyone in Banburyshire know the truth as we don’t have the millions the CCG is spending on getting the end result it is after.”