Horton campaign group demands Banbury input in new giant health authority

Banbury Horton and NHS campaigners in Keep the Horton General (KTHG) have called for the group and town to be included in new management planning for hospital and health care.

By Roseanne Edwards
Monday, 25th November 2019, 1:48 pm
Updated Monday, 25th November 2019, 1:50 pm
Charlotte Bird, far right, is pictured at an NHS demonstration with in Oxford
Charlotte Bird, far right, is pictured at an NHS demonstration with in Oxford

KTHG and Keep Our NHS Public Oxfordshire (KONPOX) made demands for local inclusion and scrutiny of major NHS changes ahead.

Charlotte Bird, vice-chairman of KTHG told Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) that Banbury could be overlooked when it becomes the northern-most town of a new health region being established to run hospital services and health care.

The new area, Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Berkshire West (BOB), is expected to have a single clinical commissioning group (CCG) to make decisions on NHS spending, service provision, rationing and restriction of some treatments.

Charlotte Bird, vice-chair of KTHG, at a demonstration at the Horton

The group was first planned as an Accountable Care Organisation (ACO) but will now be called an Integrated Care Partnership. The name change came after bad publicity over the US system of ACOs. It is one of 42 such regions and will be given a limited five-year budget, with its Board expected to manage without over-spending.

Campaigners believe the plans behind the NHS Long Term Plan will result in more centralisation of services to city hospitals, fewer hospital beds and more 'care at home'. They fear serious staff shortages, longer waiting lists and more people being encouraged to buy their procedures privately rather than wait for NHS operations.

At last Thursday's HOSC meeting in Oxford, Ms Bird said: "We are extremely concerned that most Bob Board members will never have visited the Horton and will not give it or Banburyshire sufficient weight in the crucial decisions ahead as they work out what services will be offered with the limited budget it will have.

"It does not take a genius to see that a market town bordering two other footprints (for South Northants and South Warwickshire) will be an after-thought as funds are minimised, populations grow, centralisation gallops away and acute services are replaced by 'health care at home'.

"We are worried the remote BOB teams will prioritise the commuter-lands of Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Oxford, leaving our growing community stranded with long distances to travel to city hospitals. We can see the Simon Stevens' (head of NHS England) master plan and it is frightening," she said.

"We have no confidence Banbury will be given a voice. Surveys about the next five years' services were put on the CCG's and OUH's websites but no information whatsoever given to our local paper – the easiest way to get mass involvement - in spite of the fact that both organisations have costly media departments.

"We hope Oxfordshire HOSC will insist these organisations keep the Banbury press fully informed, that Keep the Horton General is fully involved in BOB CCG planning and that the needs and geography of Banburyshire are fully considered in future strategy."

Joan Stewart, for KONPOX, said: "We urge HOSC to open up these proposals to detailed scrutiny and seriously consider calling for a formal public consultation.

"These proposals are about more than ‘streamlining’ a commissioning structure. A CCG with centralised control would make key decisions on planning and contentious funding allocations that could introduce yet more rationing and further limit access to local services. And a single remote CCG would be even more difficult to hold to account.

"It is imperative HOSC conducts a full analysis to determine the impact on local services, the restrictions on accountability and local democracy and on where scrutiny would fit in a super-CCG."