Warwickshire’s health leader has welcomed his inclusion in a new group being set up to re-examine evidence used to downgrade the Horton consultant maternity unit.
Cllr Wallace Redford will be one of two cross-border members of a super-HOSC which will finally give residents of south Warwickshire and south Northants a voice in the Horton’s future.
A HOSC is a Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee made up of elected councillors and Oxfordshire’s – run with district councils – referred the loss of obstetrics from Banbury to the Secretary of State for Health for review.
Mr Redford told the Banbury Guardian: “People in south Warwickshire and south Northants didn’t feel their comments (on health service changes) were being addressed.
“The Secretary of State recognised it and said we have got to have this joint HOSC.
“The first item under discussion will be the maternity service,” he said.
“We are very concerned about the long travel distances to obstetric services. Many of our villages are very rural and do not have bus services. For those without a car you need buses.”
Mr Redford – who is co-chair of the Warwickshire and Coventry Joint HOSC – said he was having serious discussions with Stratford- on-Avon district councillors.
“Through me, they will be feeding into the process the issues they have specifically raised,” he said.
“I have spoken to the new deputy leader of Stratford- on-Avon District Council so I understand exactly what the local issues are for Horton patients in south Warwickshire.”
Mr Redford said he expected the super-HOSC to meet well before the school summer holidays and that before then, he would be able to have a meeting with Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) to understand its long-term plans for health and social care changes in the light of government budget cuts.
”On many occasions I feel I’m running to catch up as clinical commissioning groups take decisions we have not necessarily been informed about in face-to-face discussions,” said Mr Redford.
He said he had asked his committee clerk to arrange meetings.
“If possible I’d like to meet with OCCG before that first super-HOSC meeting.”
He said Warwickshire County Council’s Joint HOSC with Coventry City was very successful and he hoped the collaboration with Oxfordshire colleagues would be as useful.
“I am hopeful we can get this going well quickly and that it will have teeth,” he said.
South Northamptonshire will be represented by a health and scrutiny councillor.
A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “This important partnership will help to rigorously monitor and scrutinise the planning, provision and operation of health services at Horton General Hospital in Banbury.
“We welcome this measure to ensure residents continue to receive high quality care when they need it most. An announcement detailing our representative is imminent.”
Campaigners and councillors in Oxfordshire are already collecting information to give strength to arguments that the evidence for removing consultant-led maternity to Oxford was not sufficiently convincing.
Keep the Horton General campaign chairman Keith Strangwood said: “It was never acceptable that patients from across the borders – who made up a third of the Horton catchment – were not consulted about the downgrade.”