NHS bosses this afternoon (Wednesday) agreed to downgrade maternity services at Banbury’s Horton General Hospital to a midwife-only unit.
Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust board of directors backed a recommendation to temporarily move obstetrics to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford because it said it was struggling to recruit enough consultants to keep it in Banbury.
The Trust maintains the move is temporary and consultant-led midwifery could return to Banbury if it manages to recruit enough doctors. However campaigners fighting the proposal remain sceptical of the claims and the mood among those at the board meeting was described as ‘sombre and despondent’ following the decision.
The measures will come into effect on October 2 and will see one midwife and support staff on duty 24/7 at the Horton, with ambulances on standby to take mothers to the John Radcliffe should the need arise.
Following today’s announcement, Banbury MP Victoria Prentis said she was ‘disappointed’ by the Trust’s decision.
Mrs Prentis said: “I have been working tirelessly to prevent the downgrade of vital Horton services. Following a number of meetings and events involving the Trust and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, it was hoped that the Trust would reconsider its plans and attempt to bring in a number of temporary consultants until all options had been considered properly through open public consultation.
“I am really sorry to hear that the Board has voted to temporarily downgrade the maternity unit. I hope that this is only a very short term plan and maternity will return to a full consultant-led unit as soon as possible. Personally, I am very worried about the contingency arrangements and will continue to put pressure on the Trust for answers. I will do all I can to offer assistance to worried constituents and expectant mothers during this time.
“I am also disappointed that this decision has been taken with no public consultation and no discussions have been had with neighbouring Members of Parliament, whose constituents will also be affected by these changes. We only found out about the contingency plan at the end of July, and have not seen any evidence or risk assessments to understand the impact the suspension may have.
“I firmly believe the Trust could have done more to recruit enough consultants. I really hope this decision is short term and the recruitment process will continue so that a full service can resume as soon as possible. In the meantime, I will continue to work with colleagues and local elected officials and do all that I can to secure the future of our local hospital.”
More reaction to the decision will be on the Banbury Guardian website shortly.