Health bosses have agreed to permanently downgrade maternity services at Banbury's hospital.
In a meeting today they decided the unit at the Horton should remain midwife led. That will mean it stays being run by midwives instead of specialist doctors - meaning high risk births would go to Oxford instead. They also agreed to downgrade critical care in Banbury and close 146 acute beds across the county.
Campaigners have always said it will put lives at risk - Keith Strangwood from Keep the Horton General says people in the town won't react well...
He said, "People will be very very angry. I think it's disgusting. About a month ago, we heard 7 out of 9 were in post. Today we were told we've been told two of those have already moved on. We should have been told about that before now. It's no surprise we're losing doctors. Nobody's going to join a sinking ship."
Those sentiments were echoed by Banbury's MP, Victoria Prentis, who said,
“The Board’s decision to approve proposals in the Transformation Programme consultation comes as no surprise.
“I am furious. Public consultation has been meaningless. The Board heard five clear addresses from myself, my colleague Robert Courts, HOSC Chair, Councillor Arash Fatemian, Professor George Smith, Chair of Healthwatch Oxfordshire, and Keith Strangwood, Chair of the Keep the Horton General campaign group. We were united in our views, yet there was no further mention of many of the points we raised when the Board examined the proposals. For example, we have no idea whether the static ambulance will remain at the Horton. Blue light transfer times were looked at without addressing the fact that no transfer can take place until another midwife has come into the unit to enable the duty midwife to travel with the mother giving birth. While patient safety is top priority for all of us, there was no proper discussion about how people, particularly those in the north of the county who do not own a car, are supposed to access services at the John Radcliffe.
“No discussion was had about the impact on the families of patients, and there was no consideration of future arrangements for the hardworking Horton staff, and those whose job is now in Oxford, who have had to adapt to changes made in the last year.
“My requests to pause the decision-making process until we have a clearer vision of health services and more evidence to understand the proposals have been ignored over and over again. Before today there were two referrals to the Secretary of State. There are now three, as the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (HOSC) will now refer the decision to permanently downgrade the maternity unit. I support them in their calls for no action to be taken until the referral process has run its course. We will also have to see how the judicial review brought by five councils progresses.
“I urge my constituents not to give up hope. I remain absolutely committed in the fight to retain acute services at the Horton General Hospital.”
Meanwhile, West Oxfordshire MP, Robert Courts, told Banbury Sound the decision had been "Rushed through", and that it was "The wrong decision at the wrong time."
Health bosses moved to defend the changes in the face of criticism.
Dr Joe McManners, clinical chair of OCCG, said: "The changes we have approved today are about making services safe and ensuring people across the county and beyond get the best available treatments, and access to services as quickly as possible.
"These were difficult decisions to make and we understand the strength of feeling among local people, especially those who live in the north of the county. But we believe these decisions will ensure safe and sustainable patient care for now and the future . We thank everyone in Oxfordshire and beyond who took part the consultation, sharing their views and opinions with us. We also appreciate the participation of campaign groups who work hard on behalf of their local communities.
"We will now work with our health and social care partners to ensure the recommendations we have approved are carried out in the best interests of patients. The Board also agreed to maintain oversight of the implementation of these changes."
We also spoke to CCG Chief exec David Smith. Watch the video below.