Judge puts freeze on Horton future debate until he rules on consultation case

The Keep the Horton General Legal team outside the court before this week's hearing began: Peter McLoughlin, Dr Peter Fisher, Keith Strangwood and Charlotte Bird NNL-170812-173746001
The Keep the Horton General Legal team outside the court before this week's hearing began: Peter McLoughlin, Dr Peter Fisher, Keith Strangwood and Charlotte Bird NNL-170812-173746001

A High Court judge tasked with deciding whether public consultation on plans to downgrade the Horton General Hospital was lawful says no new moves to change services must be made until he has ruled.

At the end of a three day hearing at the Royal Courts of Justice this week Mr Justice Mostyn said there should be ‘no pre-emptive steps’ taken in the next stage of Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s (OCCG) plan to engage with the public on Phase Two of the Oxfordshire Transformation Plan pending his decision.

“I think there should be a freeze until you have heard from me,” he told counsel for the Banburyshire claimants and the OCCG.

The interests of 177,000 patients in the Horton catchment were being represented in an action brought by Cherwell, South Northants and Stratford-on-Avon district councils, and Banbury Town Council.

Funded by a year’s intensive fundraising, campaign group Keep the Horton General was an Interested Party represented by Samantha Broadfoot QC in the claim that the January – April public consultationwas unlawful.

It listed a number of omissions including the charge that the CCG had not given enough information about the effects of Phase One – permanent loss of consultant-led maternity, SCBU, emergency gynaecology, permanent closure of 45 beds and downgrading of intensive care – on Phase Two, which is planned for next year and will include the children’s ward and A&E.

It claimed the OCCG had not met required guidance steps before closing beds; people outside north Oxfordshire were not told about the effects of the plans on them, ambulance provision had not been correctly summarised and insufficient information had been provided to enable the public to make an intelligent response.

It is expected the judge’s decision will take at least a month.

A special report on this week’s Judicial Review will appear in next week’s Banbury Guardian.