Many of you will be aware that late last year the Oxfordshire University Hospitals (OUH) NHS Foundation Trust, which delivers healthcare services on behalf of the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG), took the decision to temporarily downgrade the maternity department at the Horton General Hospital to a midwife-led unit only, removing obstetric services. This was due to a failure by the OUH NHS Foundation Trust to recruit and retain enough obstetricians at the Horton to keep the unit viable.
As your Member of Parliament at the time, and in conjunction with several colleagues including the (former) MPs for North Oxfordshire, Witney and West Oxfordshire, Stratford-upon-Avon, and others, I immediately began to raise the significant concerns I was receiving from local residents about the future of our maternity services, as many people living in the west of South Northamptonshire use the Horton as their hospital of choice.
The OCCG subsequently launched a two-stage split consultation into their proposals for the future of Oxfordshire’s Health and Care Services, which has now closed, and you can read my submission to that consultation here.
I am very much aware of the strength of feeling locally about the loss of obstetrics, especially in Brackley and the surrounding villages, and I have been doing all that I can to ensure that your voices are being heard at the highest levels and to try to prevent the downgrading of obstetrics services becoming permanent.
You may be interested in some of the correspondence I have had with senior figures in healthcare across Oxfordshire, and further afield, on your behalf in this matter:
- A letter of the 30th August from David Cameron, myself, Victoria Prentis, and Nadhim Zahawi to Dame Fiona Caldicott, Chairman of the OUH NHS Foundation Trust, setting out our concerns about the suspension of obstetric services at the Horton.
- My letter of the 25th November to David Smith, Chief Executive of the OCCG, raising concerns about the OCCG’s consultation on the future of healthcare services.
- My subsequent letter of the 12th January to David Smith, following a meeting with him in Parliament to discuss the ongoing situation at the Horton.
- A letter on the 13th January from Dr Bruno Holthof, Chief Executive of Oxfordshire University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, clarifying that expectant mothers registered with GPs in Brackley or Byfield can continue to use the Horton.
- My letter of the 2nd February to Ian Davies, Director of Operational Delivery at Cherwell District Council, with an outline summary of the concerns that local residents had put to me about the downgrading of maternity services at the Horton.
- A response from David Smith, dated the 7th February, to my earlier letter to him of the 25th November.
- A response from David Smith, dated the 10th February, to my earlier letter to him of the 12th January.
- My letter of the 19th February to Cllr Yvonne Constance OBE, Chairman of the Oxfordshire Joint Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee (OJHOSC), regarding OJHOSC’s scrutiny of the OCCG’s consultation.
- My letter of the 20th February to the Rt Hon. Jeremy Hunt (then MP), Secretary of State for Health, about the decision by OJHOSC to refer the suspension of obstetrics at the Horton to him; the letter was misdated as the 20th January when sent.
- A response from the Secretary of State for Health, dated the 21st March, to my letter to him of the 20th February.
You may also be interested in reading:
- The letter of the 14th February to the Secretary of State for Health from OJHOSC referring the temporary closure of obstetric-led maternity services at the Horton to him.
- The letter of the 15th February to the Secretary of State for Health from my colleagues Victoria Prentis, Robert Courts, and Nadhim Zahawi, which my letter to him of the 20th February supported.
- Minutes from a Special Meeting of the OJHOSC on the 7th March which discussed in detail the OCCG’s consultation on the future of healthcare services: https://mycouncil.oxfordshire.gov.uk/mgAi.aspx?ID=16599
Additionally, on the 3rd February, I wrote to 21 (former) MPs whose constituents may be affected by the proposed changes to maternity services in the OCCG’s consultation to ensure that they were aware of what was being put forward.
Alongside the referral of the temporary closure of obstetric-led maternity services by OJHOSC, an application was filed at the end of March by Cherwell District Council, South Northamptonshire Council, Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Banbury Town Council for a judicial review into how the OCCG has consulted with the public over changes to services including maternity, critical care and hospital bed use. You can read more about the judicial review application here: www.southnorthants.gov.uk/8378.htm
Due to the announcement of the General Election on the 8th June and the associated period of ‘purdah’, which prohibits the announcement of new policy until a new government has been formed, any decisions on the referral of the temporary downgrading of maternity services, the application for a judicial review, and the outcome of the OCCG’s consultation have been pushed back. The OCCG is currently expected to make a decision on the proposed changes at a Board meeting on the 10th August, although this again is subject to the outcome of the referral and the judicial review.
It was good that the Secretary of State for Health visited my colleague and neighbour, Victoria Prentis, on the 11th May and that she had the opportunity to highlight again her concerns about the future of the Horton Hospital with him, as well as to take him to the site. You can read more about his visit on Victoria’s website here: victoriaprentis.com/2017/05/11/secretary-of-state-for-health-comes-to-banbury
If I am re-elected as your Member of Parliament on the 8th June, I will continue to work hard to do all that I can to ensure that obstetric services are reinstated at the Horton and that expectant mothers have the security and freedom of choice of where they choose to give birth. I would welcome any further comments or feedback that local residents have on this matter and, if you haven’t yet written to me on this, please do get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org.