Oxford hospitals chief refuses to be drawn on Horton maternity move

The Horton Maternity Hospital
The Horton Maternity Hospital

The chief executive of the hospital trust that has placed the spectre of downgrading over the Horton said new technology will change the future of health care.

Dr Bruno Holthof, interviewed last week, said he wanted the Horton to be a ‘hospital fit for the 21st century’.

The Horton Maternity Hospital, Banbury

The Horton Maternity Hospital, Banbury

He said digital developments will allow doctors to review patients’ vital signs remotely, allowing them to predict when acute care or intervention would be needed, allowing better planning.

But he refused to be drawn on the consequences of removal of consultant care at the Horton and specifically the possible loss of specialist maternity provision next month.

“The issues of maternity and the long term future of the Horton are not connected. There is a clear distinction between the two. I know there are very strong feelings expressed in the Banbury Guardian and we have strong feelings. We also want to secure the future of the hospital.

“Services have been expanded at the Brodey Centre and for dialysis. We have committed £6m in new services and diagnostics including a new CT scanner and the endoscopy unit,” he said.

Dr Holthof deflected questions about John Radcliffe sending deliveries and other cases to the Horton during busy times.

“The JR is for complex and high speciality cases so they are never diverted to the Horton. It has high risk maternity and intensive care for neonates with high spec paediatrics.

“We have four deliveries a day at the HGH – all local pregnancies. Safety will be the essence of the debate.”

Dr Holthof said the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group is running a ‘transformation’ of clinical services and designing new pathways for services.

“There will be plenty of time and opportunity to engage GPs, staff and residents,” he said.

A board meeting takes place on August 31 in public to take a final decision on whether to remove consultant led maternity to Oxford in September because of doctor vacancies. CVs from 15 doctors from abroad have been submitted in the past fortnight and it is understood two recruitments have been made among doctors in Spain. But the OUH has said even if sufficient doctors are recruited, the unit would not be reopened until February 2017.

“We’re doing our best to recruit nationally and internationally. As far as the short term of maternity is concerned no decision has been taken.

“There is a lack of trust in the trust. I sensed it in my first meetings at the Horton. I know it has a long history but we need to rebuild it together and we can only do that by doing what we are saying and saying what we are doing.”

On bed closures he said: “When you look at health care ten years ago it was in a very different place to what it will be ten years from now. Ten years ago I had a Blackberry, now everyone has a smart phone and clinicians can use these to read oxygen saturation levels.

“Ten years from now millions of vital signs will predict how and when patients can get worse within the next few days. Hospital is not always going to be the best place to be taken care of.

“One of the complaints we read about is that the OUH plans to downgrade A&E at the Horton in the short term. We do not plan to close A&E in the short term and I know this creates anxiety. My personal objective is, with the board, to build a district general hospital fit for the 21st century, taking into account the technological issues,” said Dr Holthof.