The Big Health and Care Consultation in Banbury
The first of the Big Health and Care consultation events took place in Banbury yesterday evening (27/01) as NHS leaders attempted to persuade the people of Banbury to accept major cuts to hospital health services.
On stage representing the Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group was Tony Berendt (Oxford University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust – OUHT), Sula Wiltshire (Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group – OCCG), David Smith (OCCG), Paul Brennan (OUHT), Dr Kiren Collison (OCCG), Dr Joe McManners (Chair, OCCG) and David Smith (OCCG).
The main changes being proposed are a permanent downgrading of the Horton Maternity (despite being told that is was only temporary due to staffing issues), and acute service such all patients diagnosed with an acute stroke being taken to Oxford and the loss of hundreds of beds. The ‘carrot’ would be more day cases being undertaken at the Horton.
The event, which was attended by over 500 people, was started with a large protest outside St Mary’s church. The OCCG opened proceeding’s with a short film which most people we talked to after the event felt was not helpful and biased towards the view of OCCG.
They also handed out the glossy 45 page consolation document. ‘Keep the Horton General’ campaign leader Keith Strangwood took offence at the front cover which has a photo of a mother with baby together with a midwife. Most felt this was inappropriate at a time when they are trying to permanently downgrade the maternity unit. Keith said “how dare they show happy smiling mum pics – deaf and blind baby just 2 weeks after CLU closed, collateral damage. Inhumane”.
The first question of the night was given to Banbury MP (Conservative) Victoria Prentis who accused the panel of comparing apples with pears after saying they won’t allow acute services such as A&E, paediatrics and maternity to be bargained away for more day case capability which are not even costed.
Victoria Prentis asked “Some of us have been involved in trying to save the Horton for a very, very long time. We remember in what I would call the recent past in 2008, not that long ago, when the independent review panel said it was neither safe nor would it help the women of Oxfordshire to have maternity services go from the Horton to the Radcliffe.
“The geography has not changed but the traffic and parking has got considerably worse.
“I have been running a survey and people have very kindly filled it in with real travel times between here [Banbury] and Oxford. The Average travel time, out of that survey so far, was an hour and half and the average parking time is 20 minutes, some people have taken much longer.
“So, I would like to know, really, whether people think it is safe for women to be travelling that distance to have their babies.”
This question was eventually answered by Paul Brenan who said that people had to remember that there is a dedicated ambulance stationed at the Horton Hospital to take at risk mothers to the John Radcliffe Hospital. This answer was met with shouts of disagreement, especially as it was announced by the panel later in the evening that the ambulance is only temporary during the consultation period.
Cllr Sean Woodcock (Labour) asked for a guarantee from the Trust about escalation by Ambulance from Horton for births gone wrong. The Trust gave no real answer to his question, but it was confirmed later that the permanent ambulance is only during the consultation period as above.
Andrew McHugh (Conservative) spoke to provide evidence that smaller trusts successfully maintain rotas and asked why the Oxford University Hospital Trust can’t. He also accused the Trust of not trying hard enough to retain the training recognition that would save obstetric services and that loss of status suited the trust. Tony Berendt from OUHT said he would be happy to look at these examples of smaller units with training recognition.
One women, a member of the general public, stood up and told how her daughter had given birth by the side of the road near Banbury and had been taken to the Horton General Hospital, only to have to wait for an ambulance from Gloucestershire to take her to the John Radcliffe Hospital. She asked the panel “you tell me what’s good about your John Radcliffe? Her question got a huge applause from the crowd.
People are being urged by campaigners not to complete the questionnaires that were handed out on the night and are also online, which many feel is biased and confusing, but to wait until ‘Save our Horton’ can offer advice on how to respond. The closing date for responses is 7th April.
One embarrassing moment for the panel was when they were asked to turn on the hearing loop for the hard of hearing. They had to admit that they were not connected to the hearing loop which could be viewed as discriminatory.