Health chiefs have unveiled plans for a multi-million pound rebuild of the Horton General Hospital in the biggest infrastructure investment in Banbury for decades.
In the most ambitious proposal on the table, the hospital could be replaced by a £150 million, newly-built hospital at the centre of a huge health hub.
At the very least, there will have to be a £55 million rebuild of the site’s departments to make them fit for purpose. Planners say doing nothing is not an option.
The proposals revealed by Oxford University Hospitals Foundation Trust (OUH) on Tuesday are in their infancy and no single blueprint has been decided upon.
“There are specific issues about the Horton estate. It’s impossible to develop it cost effectively,” said Andrew Stevens, director of planning.
“If we’re spending £750,000 on a new CT scanner, for example, it’s going to cost £3-£4 million more because the building is in such a poor condition.”
Mr Stevens said a group of Oxfordshire’s major healthcare planners had discussed possibilities for the Horton site at a special workshop last month.
He said the OUH’s new foundation trust status allows it to seek innovative forms of funding to pay for the building such as bank loans or partnerships. Land sale was also mentioned when the project was unveiled at the Community Partnership Network meeting in Banbury. There would be no funds from the shrinking NHS allowances, Mr Stevens said.
He said part of planning will involve looking at what frontline services would be in the new hospital. A current review of critical care has been put on hold until those services have been decided.
Asked by the Banbury Guardian if all existing acute services will remain, Mr Stevens said plans are for redevelopment of the Horton ‘as it is’. However Paul Brennan, director of clinical services, warned of ‘serious issues’ around obstetrics, paediatrics and acute stroke care.
Mr Brennan said the timescale for the project was five to ten years.
Mr Stevens said predictions show daycase surgery and outpatient appointments at the Horton could be almost doubled, saving patients’ travel and pressure on the Oxford hospitals. Taking input from Banburyshire stakeholders - members of the Community Partnership Network - the group will now try to develop plans into workable proposals by June.
And the whole project will be discussed alongside Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group’s new ‘transformation plans’ for health and social care provision for Oxfordshire’s growing, ageing population.
Retired Horton consultant Dr Peter Fisher, a member of the Keep the Horton General campaign group said: “Plans appear positive, with emphasis on replacing buildings no longer fit for purpose, reducing the number of Banbury area patients needing to travel to Oxford and encouraging those from other areas, particularly Bicester, to look to Banbury rather than Oxford.
“However, at other points in the meeting there was discussion of staffing problems in paediatrics and obstetrics, in part due to national shortages. It will be important to remain vigilant and ensure ways are found to ensure that OUH maintains its stated commitment to continue fully both those services at the Horton.”