Breaking - Horton battle for maternity set to be sent back to the Secretary of State

Cllr Arash Fatemian who has written a lengthy and scathing report on the conduct of health bosses in relation to the maternity downgrade review
Cllr Arash Fatemian who has written a lengthy and scathing report on the conduct of health bosses in relation to the maternity downgrade review

The chairman of the committee tasked with reviewing evidence of the closure of the full maternity unit intends to take the matter back to the Secretary of State for Health.

Cllr Arash Fatemian has written a scathing report on the behaviour of Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG) - which today said it would recommend against restoring an obstetric unit at the Horton - and of Oxford University Hospitals Trust (OUH).

He is urging his fellow members of the Horton Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HHOSC) to approve referring the matter back to the Secretary of State when it meets on Thursday.

"The impression given is that the CCG and Trust believe that simply going through a ‘tick-box’ exercise and presenting the results of their work to HOSC at every stage would be enough to nullify any grounds for referral on process or decision," he said in his report.

"The committee has frequently found the responses from both the CCG and the OUH to be evasive, unnecessarily complicated and not in the spirit of cooperation that one would expect.

"The unilateral decision to stop Consultant-Led Maternity services at the Horton as an emergency and temporary measure was purported to be on safety grounds. It is incredulous that the Trust has now engaged in a campaign to make any resumption of services appear to be cost-prohibitive.

Referring to a wealth of research, including a dossier of mothers' experiences of giving birth at the JR and a survey of how all small maternity units in England and Wales successfully operate, Mr Fatemian said: "It should not be for the committee and Keep The Horton General (KTHG) to do the work for OCCG and the OUH. If there was genuine interested in exploring all possible options for the successful running of small units, this should have had a far greater significance in the work-streams.

"The committee is particularly concerned that as soon it was announced that we would be conducting our own investigation, the response back was one of hearsay against other NHS trusts from both OCCG and the OUH, who suggested that other trusts might not be complaint and might lie, or stretch the truth in their responses to the committee. This is not the response of an organisation engaging in the public process.

"The committee does not accept that the Trust is doing all it can to recruit the necessary staff numbers. The trust appears not to have sufficiently and aggressively tackled the recruitment and retention of staff, at this world-leading institution."

Mr Fatemian accused the CCG of ignoring the work of the public survey for the Horton catchment area with dismal satisfaction scores for the current service and desire to give birth at the Horton getting sky-high scores.

"The committee heard during its meeting of the December 19, 2018, several cases where women had harrowing experiences because obstetric services were not available at the HGH. At no point has the trust responded effectively to these experiences," he said.

"Let me make it absolutely clear that at no point has the Horton HOSC ‘signed off’ on the outputs of the workstreams. At no point has the committee indicated it’s satisfaction with the execution process the CCG set out in its plan to address the Secretary of State and IRP recommendations."

The Banbury Guardian will publish a special report into the matter on Thursday.

* A referral back to the Secretary of State for Health would probably mean the issue would be sent again to the Independent Reconfiguration Panel for a review. It is understood the grounds for referral are 'solid'. The OCCG plan to make the downgrade permanent would again be put on ice.