Banburyshire councillors reinforced their commitment to a full maternity service at the Horton this evening (Thursday) pledging to return the matter to the Health Secretary if health bosses confirm a recommendation to make the unit's downgrade permanent.
The Horton Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HHOSC) went over many pages of explanation by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) to justify a recommendation to its Board next week to make permanent the move from a full obstetric service to a midwife-only unit at the hospital.
The downgrade was instigated by Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust (OUH) in October 2016 for safety reasons without public consultation. The trust said he could not recruit enough doctors to staff the unit making it unsafe. The matter was included in a public consultation on Oxfordshire health service changes months later.
Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee referred the matter to the Secretary of State who asked the Independent Reconfiguration Panel (IRP) for advice. The IRP in turn said that residents of the whole Banburyshire area should have been asked for their views, not just Oxfordshire, and ordered the Horton HOSC to be formed to hear what women, their families and the communities of the wider Horton catchment felt about the downgrade.
For the past year, HHOSC has been researching the evidence used to effect the downgrade and on Monday, the OCCG caused shockwaves when it announced it was recommending a permanent end to obstetrics, to be reviewed in the future if circumstances changed.
This evening, after a long and arduous meeting held in public, HHOSC members, representing north Oxfordshire, south Northants, south Warks and west Oxon, agreed that they did not accept the reasoning put forward by the OCCG and if that group's Board confirmed permanent closure, it would send the matter back to the Health Secretary for further review.
The reasons were because
o the committee is not satisfied the OCCG evidence was sufficient to downgrade permanently
o downgrading is not in the interests of health service provision in the Horton catchment area
o that the HHOSC should continue to exist to hold the OUH, the CCG and other parties to account and to develop a positive vision for the future of the Horton.
Background to this week's dramatic events can be found here.
More details on the discussions and who said what will be published in the Banbury Guardian tomorrow.