Horton maternity staffing no cause for permanent closure, says scrutiny committee

Banbury campaigners join Keep Our NHS Public at the JHOSC meeting in Oxford
Banbury campaigners join Keep Our NHS Public at the JHOSC meeting in Oxford

The future of Horton General Hospital services has been batted back to government as the Oxfordshire democratic process rejected plans for permanent loss of full maternity services today (Monday). The Oxfordshire Joint Heath Overview and Scrutiny Committee (JHOSC) has ordered the plan for permanently centralising the consultant led maternity department in Oxford to be referred to the Secretary of State for Health for review - if the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) confirms its intentions - as expected - on Thursday.

The committee’s support for other changes, including a reduction in the level of intensive care support, bed closures and stroke care, have conditions attached.

The audience at the packed JHOSC meeting in Oxford

The audience at the packed JHOSC meeting in Oxford

Cllr Arash Fatemian, new JHOSC chairman, said the committee ‘strongly opposed’ the maternity downgrade and will refer the matter to the Health Secretary for review by the Independent Reconfiguration Panel if OCCG confirms its plans this week.

The referral will be on the basis that the matter has not been properly consulted and that ‘more seriously’ the proposals are not in the best interests of all patients in Oxfordshire as a whole.

The reasons, he said, are listed in the 2008 judgement of the IRP (that the John Radcliffe Hospital was too far to send women in labour safely) and the need for obstetric services in north Oxfordshire has not changed since then.

“The issues around access, population growth and travel times are all well made,” he said.

“We’re not satisfied that, while we accept that it’s difficult, the staffing issue is just cause for the permanent closure and the fundamental need has not changed.”

Keith Strangwood, chairman of the Keep the Horton General Campaign, said after the meeting he was disappointed the JHOSC committee had not referred the entire Oxfordshire Transformation Plan - which he says will result in a total downgrade of all Horton services and turn it into a day clinic.

“I’m optimistic but only slightly, because only one matter the JHOSC has not gone along with is obstetrics and they’re going along with critical care, level three being downgraded at the Horton,” he said.
“If we want it to remain a fully functional general hospital we need all the services, because one service is dependent on the other and A&E will be under threat.
“They should have referred the whole Oxfordshire Transformation Plan and done it today. I was expecting them to refer the whole matter. This is about an improper consultation and a split consultation which they didn’t want and they didn’t mention it today, they just say they aren’t going along with downgrading of obstetrics. I am disappointed.

“On Thursday Keep the Horton General has to try to convince the Clinical Commissioning Group that this is wrong. 
“The OCCG should say ‘no’ to NHS England and NHS England should tell the Government it can’t go ahead with these inhumane Sustainability and Transformation Plan proposals. I don’t know if they will listen but I am always hopeful.”

For more information on this story see; ‘Councillors and NHS chiefs go head to head over Horton staffing’, ‘United Banburyshire appeals for Horton to be saved’ and ‘Cherwell District Council offers ‘golden hellos’ to incoming Horton doctors.’