Horton’s future to be decided next week

Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-170322-150349001
Keith Strangwood at The Horton General Hospital, Maternity Unit, in Banbury. NNL-170322-150349001

The future of Banbury’s Horton General Hospital will be revealed next week when health bosses finally announce their decision on maternity services and other downgrade proposals.

Banburyshire residents have endured a year of nailbiting uncertainty, campaigning and concern as Oxfordshire has responded to government-driven attempts to change how the health service operates.

“Next week is an incredibly important crossroads in the life of the Horton and the welfare of Banbury area patients,” said Keith Strangwood, chairman of the Keep the Horton General Campaign group.

“By the end of the week we will know if the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) has paid any attention to the overwhelming objections of residents in the catchment area over the planned removal of essential acute services at the Horton.

“We have campaigned as hard as we can, both locally and nationally against the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan which is designed to replace major services at the Horton with day services, diagnostics and outpatient clinics.”

The campaign leader said he hoped the Oxfordshire County Council Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC), at its meeting on Monday to consider the issue, might yet refer the entire plan to the Secretary of State for Health.

The Horton is subject of a Sustainability and Transformation Plan (STP) downgrade proposal which was split 
into two sections after hospital bosses removed the consultant-led maternity unit 
and closed 45 medical beds without consultation last autumn.

The Oxfordshire section of the STP also called for confirmation of downgrading of the Horton’s intensive care beds, changes in stroke care and changes in bed use to deter hospital admissions in favour of patients being cared for by visting teams at home.

Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s decision on whether it will confirm its own proposal to remove interdependent acute services from the Horton will be officially made next Thursday at an emergency board meeting.

The board meeting papers can be found at www.oxfordshireccg.nhs.uk/board-meetings/extraordinary-board-meeting-10-august-2017/34847.

The HOSC meeting on Monday will consider the OCCG’s responses to a number of serious reservations county councillors have about the major change in service style.

The changes are reflected in STPs in 44 new health regions.

Many district general hospitals such as the Horton are earmarked for either closure or downgrade, resulting in the prospect of mothers having to travel long distances to give birth under the care of a consultant and closure or downgrading of A&E departments which will become GP-led minor injury units.

Mr Strangwood – a former county councillor and HOSC member – said: “No matter what they may say to reinforce their case for taking services from Banbury, we believe 25 miles is too far to ask women in labour to travel.

“It is too dangerous. The Independent Reconfiguration Panel, which saved the Horton in 2008, said so and nothing has changed, except there are many more people using the Horton.

“And closing hospital beds while there is a funding crisis in social care is a move that will end in disaster.”

> Anyone wishing to address the HOSC committee on Monday should request a five minute slot by emailing julie.dean@oxfordshire.gov.uk by tomorrow (Friday) at 9am.