Councillors express concerns about proposed Horton Hospital changes

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FEARS that vital health services could suffer as a result of changes under consideration at Horton Hospital, Banbury, were discussed at a meeting between Stratford district councillors and the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group last Friday.

At the forefront of the discussion was the perceived lack of public consultation over proposed changes to maternity, critical care and acute stroke services at the Horton which may be transferred to the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford.

It’s estimated that if the proposals go ahead, up to 27,000 residents in south Warwickshire and north Oxfordshire could be affected including those in Shipston, Radway, Fenny Compton, Shotteswell and Tysoe for whom Horton is the closest hospital for critical care as opposed to Warwick Hospital and the John Radcliffe in Oxford.

The first phase of the consultation process began on 16th January and is due to close on 9th April but those councillors attending last Friday’s overview and scrutiny committee argued the consultation process has not been thorough enough leaving many residents in the dark about what exactly is proposed at the Horton.

“There are real concerns about the consultation timetable and indeed the lack of consultation. There have been 15 consultation meetings with the public; 13 in Oxfordshire and two in Brackley but none in Warwickshire. This issue potentially affects 27,000 people in south Warwickshire and north Oxfordshire or Banburyshire – to use the vernacular – we seem to be getting the same pattern at the Horton as we had at Redditch Hospital. The centralisation of acute services is a retrograde step because of the time it would take to get to Oxford; any such proposals would prejudice care and treatment of patients,” leader of the council, Cllr Chris Saint said.

Val Ingram from the Keep the Horton campaign voiced her concerns about the impact on maternity care the proposed changes would have.

“Maternity services are our key concern. We don’t support the consultation process so far and we also have concerns about the transport issue as there are no bus services on the Warwickshire-Oxfordshire border.”

Listening to the concerns raised, Diane Hedges, chief operating officer of Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (Oxford CCG) said she couldn’t deny that travelling times were an issue if services were switched to Oxford. Addressing the consultation issue she said that 1,300 people had attended meetings as part of the consultation process and that other meetings had been held with voluntary organisations and interested parties.

Oxfordshire CCG agreed at the conclusion of the meeting to redress the public consultation concerns and work more closely with the district council to ensure residents have their say on any proposed changes.

“There are some very emotive issues here and this is not a surprise as these are particularly big issues in rural areas. It needs sensitive handling and we as a district council need to know how we can become more involved,” Cllr Tony Jefferson, chair of the committee said.

A second phase of public consultation over the Horton is due to take place in the autumn.