Banbury loses its battle for Horton maternity

The Horton General Hospital maternity unit
The Horton General Hospital maternity unit

Oxfordshire health bosses say they will not return obstetrics to the Horton General Hospital unless circumstances demand it in the future.

Furious campaigners who have spent years challenging the downgrade of the hospital's full maternity service say the decision must be referred back to the Secretary of State for Health by the new Horton health overview and scrutiny committee (HHOSC).

Keep the Horton General chairman Keith Strangwood

Keep the Horton General chairman Keith Strangwood

And Banbury MP Victoria Prentis says she the recommendation is 'extremely disappointing'.

Keep the Horton General chairman Keith Strangwood said: "This should have gone to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel to decide. The IRP looks at the facts. The Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group has just looked at itself. It's ridiculous and the Horton HOSC has got to refer it back to the Secretary of State for Health.

"All of the evidence pointed to the return of obstetrics but they are not interested. They have ignored it all."

The CCG's paper says it recommends its Board next week to confirm the permanent closure of the Horton obstetric unit and to confirm the midwife-led unit at the Horton into the forseeable future.

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis

Banbury MP Victoria Prentis

"If population or other factors change significantly then the need for obstetric services can be reviewed," its recommendations say.

It says it is important for this decision to be made and implemented to remove uncertainty for women, families and staff.

The CCG says it will put in place a dedicated hotline for women in labour and their families to navigate the JR site and use priority parking in an emergency. It will expand services available at the Horton MLU or 'virtually' to enable women to receive most of their maternity care closer to home and increase facilities for birth partners to stay overnight in Oxford.

It will also strengthen links with Warwick Hospital to ensure it is an attractive option.

Mrs Prentis said: "The recommendation is extremely disappointing. I believe we can do more to recruit obstetricians and reopen a safe service.

"As I have said many times before, the JR is simply too far to travel when in labour or an emergency situation. I will work closely with other MPs, councillors and campaign groups to ensure that we take every step we can.

"There are three glimmers of hope. Firstly, it is likely I will be able to chair an annual review, with community involvement, to explore our current health and wellbeing needs to the CCG. As Banbury grows, so too will our maternity needs.

"Secondly, last week I met the CCG to discuss the current situation for new parents in Banbury and surrounding areas. I have asked that the mitigation we were promised four years ago - parking and joined up notes and so on - must be put in place immediately.

"Finally, there is a realisation in the CCG that the Horton General Hospital needs significant investment to be fit for the future. We need to join together locally, working with the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (OUHFT) and make the case for significant investment with the Department of Health and Social Care.

"I was born at the Horton and I hope future generations of Banbury babies will be too. I will never give up on the fight to bring back a full maternity service to Banbury."