Banburyshire’s leaders have joined forces in calling for public consultation on downgrading the Horton’s services to be done in one go.
Cherwell District Council leader Barry Wood joined MPs Victoria Prentis (Banbury) and Robert Courts (Witney) in calling for a single consultation of acute services at Banbury’s hospital rather than a split exercise agreed at Oxfordshire County Council last week.
The Oxfordshire Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) voted for a single, January public consultation on loss of some 60 beds in consultant-led maternity, adult medicine/stroke care and trauma last month.
This would be run separately from consultation on loss of the 24-hour children’s ward, critical care and A&E, which would be conducted in May after the local council elections.
The political leaders say the ‘domino effect’ – where no single service could survive without the others – means splitting consultation could be the death knell for the Horton as a district general hospital.
Cllr Wood said: “The council is disappointed and disagrees with the HOSC’s decision to split into two the consultation process for health sector changes in the county.
“Emerging proposals for change to services at the Horton General Hospital have been examined for the hospital as a whole as there are many inter-dependencies and wider aspects which need to be considered. This has already created significant uncertainty and anxiety amongst local people. The council believes that same approach needs to apply to the formal consultation process.”
“To consult separately on obstetrics, bed reductions, critical care and stroke care only, without considering the wider implications of the effect on A&E, paediatrics, anaesthetics, radiology and urgent care is a mistake. This will result in a longer period of uncertainty after the January consultation as the outcome and any proposed change will not be known until after the second stage consultation is undertaken in early summer 2017.”
Mrs Prentis said: “I find this latest development very concerning. Splitting the consultation will have far-reaching implications for all of us in north Oxfordshire and beyond. The future of our hospital is a central part of the Transformation Plan.
“We had to endure the downgrade of the Horton General Hospital’s maternity unit with absolutely no consultation; it is now essential we are given an opportunity to understand and consider the proposals in the plan in their entirety.
“This will be virtually impossible if the consultation is carried out in two parts over almost half a year. The clarity of the plan will be diluted and the whole system approach will be lost,” she said.
Newly elected Witney MP, Robert Courts was also critical of the decision. He said: “I am concerned not only at the delay in consultation but the proposed split into two consultation parts.
“There have been a number of blows to local healthcare recently from the downgrade of the Horton’s maternity unit to the proposed closure of Deer Park Medical Centre, Witney.
“They have been marked by an absence of any or any proper consultation. It is vital that the public are able to understand the entire proposals, which will be impossible if the plans are split into two parts.
“What is needed is a clear and open consultation, so the public are not left wondering about what is proposed for their vital services at, for example, Witney and Chipping Norton Hospitals.“